Washington Needs to Do a Better Job Explaining Its War on al-Qaeda to the American People

A few days ago, the New York Times published a report, based on hundreds of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, detailing civilian casualties from U.S. drone and missile strikes in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Writing shortly before Times’s report appeared, Thomas Joscelyn addressed the case of a December 3 drone attack in Syria on a man in motorcycle; a family of six that happened to be driving by were injured along with the target. The problem, in Joscelyn’s evaluation, isn’t just one of intelligence and targeting, but also of messaging:

The U.S. military has hunted senior al-Qaeda personnel in Syria for years, but often provides few details concerning those targeted. This is a problem. Civilians are being killed in U.S. drone strikes in Syria and elsewhere, but the U.S. government often does not provide clear justifications for those bombings in the first place. Sometimes it is clear why an al-Qaeda figure was targeted. On other occasions, however, it isn’t obvious at all.

The December 3 air strike is a case in point. During a press briefing on December 6, the Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby explained that the target was a man known as Musab Kinan and he was “a senior leader with Hurras al-Din, which is an al-Qaeda affiliated group.”

Hurras al-Din (HAD), meaning the “Guardians of Religion,” is indeed an al-Qaeda group. HAD openly signals its loyalty to al-Qaeda’s top men in its media and messaging. And while Kinan was an obscure figure and previously unknown to the public, other HAD leaders are well-known al-Qaeda veterans. . . . HAD is thought to have a few thousand members in Syria.

Why did Kinan command the U.S. government’s attention? We don’t know. Beyond his alleged role within HAD, the U.S. military hasn’t offered any details concerning his activities. Did he specifically threaten the U.S. or American interests in some fashion? Again, we don’t know. And this isn’t the first time the U.S. has offered little information about a target in Syria or elsewhere. The U.S. government does an exceptionally poor job of explaining al-Qaeda to the public.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at FDD

More about: Al Qaeda, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy