The Newest Threat: Radical Islamist Piracy

According to a recently published report by a scholar at the Marine Corps University, Islamic State (IS) and perhaps even al-Qaeda, having been driven from their territorial strongholds, are likely to take up campaigns of maritime terror. IS successfully carried out an attack on an Egyptian navy frigate, using anti-ship missiles, in the summer of 2015. Michael Rubin explains what could be next:

[T]he Arabs and the Islamic world more broadly have a long and rich maritime legacy, one in which the symbolism-conscious Islamic State can find inspiration. . . .

[The] al-Qaeda military strategist Abu Ubayd al-Qurayshi first sought to integrate maritime operations into a broader jihadist strategy. Al-Qurayshi argued that doing so was especially important to achieve the goal of undermining the U.S. economy, given the importance of trade and the freedom of navigation. . . .

How might al-Qaeda and Islamic State act in the future? In short, they hope to entice the U.S. Navy into narrow waterways off the coast of hostile regions, such as the waters off Yemen and Somalia [as well as] Libya, Egypt, and Syria, and in the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea. While ships have grown accustomed to treading carefully off the Horn of Africa, Yemen is more difficult to avoid: the Mandeb Strait between Yemen and Djibouti is a chokepoint that shipping transiting the Suez Canal cannot avoid. The same holds true with the Straits of Malacca, especially if extremists succeed in their efforts to gain footholds in Indonesia.

As for the Mediterranean, the development of local gas fields and the rise of Islamic State proxies along its shores mean that it is in play in a way that it has not been since the cold war.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Islamic State, Mediterranean Sea, Piracy, Politics & Current Affairs, Suez, Terrorism

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy