Yemen attacks, Russian air campaign, Iranian strike capability, Syrian rebels…

Threat Information Office Headlines 10-6-15 

Attacks in Yemen target government officials and UAE troops

A rocket attack aimed at the al-Qasr hotel in the coastal city of Aden, Yemen left at least 15 dead, including government officials and UAE troops that are participating in the Saudi-led campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.  A military base housing Emirati troops and a palace serving as UAE headquarters were also targeted.  Emirati Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash blamed Houthi rebels for the attacks, saying that they are “waging a losing battle” after losing control of Aden to the Saudi-led coalition.

The Houthis still control the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, and as the coalition pushes north from Aden, the rebels have vowed reprisals following the bombing of their positions in the capital and surrounding towns. Although the coalition has the upper hand in terms of hardware and American logistical support, the Iranian-backed Houthis have managed to maintain their insurgency, showing no signs of folding anytime soon.

Russian air campaign in Syria places NATO and the US in a bind

Refuting Russia’s claims that its air incursions into Turkey over the weekend were accidental, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday that such actions were “very serious” and demanding an explanation from Russia over its two violations of Turkish airspace.  US Defense Secretary Ash Carter is also calling on Russia to respond to requests to coordinate rules of engagement and communication with American aircraft over Syria, as both countries conduct airstrikes on Islamic State (IS), while Russia attacks American-backed rebels.  Signaling growing U.S. concern, Mr. Carter said that they are “waiting on the Russians.”

Currently, Syrian skies are crowded with American, Australian, French, and Turkish jets on one side, and Russian and Syrian aircraft on the other, raising the specter of potential confrontation, particularly as Russia shows a willful disregard in its violation of sovereign airspace. With Bashar al-Assad receives timely assistance from Moscow, the Iraqi government is now also requesting assistance from Russia as well against IS.

Ahrar al-Sham and other rebels call for coalition against Russia and Iran

In a joint statement with approximately 40 other rebel groups, al-Qaeda linked faction Ahrar al-Sham has called for a “regional coalition” against Russia and Iran, accusing them of bombing civilian targets throughout rebel-held areas.  While Ahrar Al Sham’s ally and Al Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra front did not sign the statement (nor did IS), Al Nusra’s absence shouldn’t be viewed as a lack of support, but rather likely intended to help create the appearance of separation between the AQ-linked forces, as Ahrar al-Sham, has been at pains to present themselves as a “moderate” alternative to IS. Ahrar Al Sham has not waited for a response to its declaration however, launching attacks on Russian positions in Latakia.

The Ahrar Al Sham statement follows a fatwa by Saudi-based clerics calling on “all who are able” to join the fight in Syria against Assad. Although the kingdom has criminalized both joining jihadist groups and traveling to Syria to fight, the clerics are openly defying the Saudi authorities, who continue to provide material and military support to the “Islamic Army” which is allied with Ahrar Al Sham as part of the Islamic Front and has fought side by side with Al Nusra in the past.

Iran claims missile strike capability on all US bases in Middle East

In comments made to the Iranian state news agency, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh claimed that all American bases in the ME are “within range” of their missiles and that the nuclear deal places no restrictions on further development capability. This statement continues an ongoing propaganda campaign. Last week, Iranian Navy commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi stated that Iran is imposing its sovereignty in the Persian Gulf “very powerfully.” These statements are likely a reaction to the news that the US Navy will be reducing its presence in the Gulf, as for the first time in seven years there will not be at least one carrier strike group navigating the sensitive waters in the coming months.

Iran is also participating in the joint command center set up in Baghdad with Iraqi, Russian, and Syrian participation to coordinate the Syrian strategy.  The increased confidence and bluster exhibited by Tehran is only the beginning as the nuclear deal is implemented.

Other stories we’re following:

Tunisian police arrest 11 IS recruiters

Violence continues in West Bank, Israelis and Palestinians killed in protests

Afghan Army fighting to retake Kunduz from the Taliban

Russia conducts airstrikes against IS targets

Boko Haram attack leaves 11 dead in Chad

Nigeria arrests Boko Haram financier  

Congress seeks to eliminate Syrian rebel training program

State Dept: cyber warfare treaty with China not on the table

US Navy warns against restrictions imposed on South China Sea