Ex-Mossad chief signals Israel attacked Iran nuclear assets

The outgoing chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service has offered the closest acknowledgment yet his country was behind recent attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear program and a military scientist.

The comments by Yossi Cohen, speaking to Israel’s Channel 12 investigative program “Uvda” in a segment aired Thursday night, offered an extraordinary debriefing by the head of the typically secretive agency in what appears to be the final days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule.

In Tigray, food is often a weapon of war as famine looms

First the Eritrean soldiers stole the pregnant woman’s food as she hid in the bush. Then they turned her away from a checkpoint when she was on the verge of labor.

So she had the baby at home and walked 12 days to get the famished child to a clinic in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray. At 20 days old, baby Tigsti still had shriveled legs and a lifeless gaze — signs of what the United Nations’ top humanitarian official calls the world’s worst famine conditions in a decade.

The EU in the Black Sea: Absent, but highly desired

The Memorandum of Understanding signed recently by Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine on enhanced cooperation toward European Union (EU) membership highlights both progress and overall shortcomings of the EU’s Eastern policy. Despite the Union enlarging to the East in 2004 and 2007 – and the fact that Russian aggression has long been felt on EU territory – the bloc’s Eastern policy still does not reflect realities on the ground. However, the recent buildup of Russian military in Ukraine, as well as the deployment of Russian ‘peacekeepers’ in Nagorno-Karabakh, has created momentum for an urgently needed rethink of the Union’s Eastern neighborhood policy. This in turn could pave the way for membership for Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Is Morocco willing to jeopardize its relationship with Europe over the Western Sahara?

The scene was a familiar one, even if the scale was not. On May 17 and 18, thousands of migrants entered Ceuta, one of two Spanish enclaves in North Africa that border Morocco. The record flow of irregular migrants surpassed 12,000 people — including whole families and hundreds of children — over the course of two days. The Spanish authorities quickly understood that this surge in migration was about more than the usual human desperation that has driven large numbers of people over fences and across water in an effort to enter Europe in recent years. Morocco, troubled over Madrid’s stance on its territorial claims over the Western Sahara, decided to retaliate.

Biden clears the air on ties with Russia and China

The US President Joe Biden’s op-ed in Washington Post My trip to Europe is about America rallying the world’s democracies will draw wide attention in world capitals from Brussels to Beijing.

He says right at the outset that this weeklong trip to Europe, the first overseas trip of his presidency, is “about realising America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners, and demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age.”

The Great Reset: The Davos playbook for the post-Covid world

Series Note: We are in the middle of an unprecedented crisis as the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lockdowns implemented in response, continue to deliver a series of economic, social and psychological shocks to the world. In this time of chaos, some of the world’s most powerful interest groups have stepped forward claiming that this crisis presents an opportunity to ‘reset’ the world’s systems.

Sahel: Macron annonce la fin de l’opération Barkhane sous sa forme actuelle

Le président français a annoncé la fin de l’opération Barkhane « sous sa forme actuelle » et la « transformation profonde » de la présence militaire française au Sahel.

C’était attendu, c’est désormais confirmé. Jeudi 10 juin, Emmanuel Macron a annoncé la fin de l’opération Barkhane « sous sa forme actuelle » et une « transformation profonde » de l’engagement militaire français au Sahel, dont « les modalités précises et le calendrier seront précisés dans les jours à venir » – probablement fin juin, lors du sommet de la Coalition pour le Sahel prévu à Bruxelles.

With Shekau Dead, What is the Future of Jihad in West Africa?

ISWAP has killed Boko Haram leader and longtime nemesis, Abubakar Shekau, and seeks to take over his faction’s bases in Nigeria.

With the potential collapse of Shekau’s Boko Haram faction, ISWAP will be less distracted from implementing its civilian-centric insurgency strategy.

Some portion of Shekau’s remaining faction could defect to ISWAP, making the group more dangerous and strengthening the insurgency.

The Nigerian military is yet to indicate any change in its strategy as a result of Shekau’s death.

Abubakar Shekau was Boko Haram’s first leader after the group launched an insurgency that started in Nigeria and subsequently spread to Niger, Cameroon, and Chad, beginning in approximately 2010. Shekau soon gained a reputation as one of the world’s most brutal terrorist leaders, killing sub-commanders for frivolous infractions and slaughtering Muslim civilians who steadfastly refused to join his interpretation of “jihad.” As a result, a faction called Ansaru broke away from him in 2012, with the approval of al-Qaeda. However, the Chibok kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls in 2014 – in which Shekau claimed to “enslave” the mostly Christian girls – garnered Shekau the international notoriety he retained until his recent death. By that time, Shekau had also ordered the killings of Ansaru members, which led to that faction’s diminishment.

The Nigerian government announced multiple times since 2010 that Shekau was dead only to see him boast that he was still alive in online videos. However, last month, Nigerian publication HumAngle, which has insider sources to Shekau’s rivals in Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), also reported his death. As the source of Shekau’s death was for the first time not the Nigerian government, but a credible independent news source, it appeared plausible that Shekau was indeed deceased. Subsequent audiotapes from ISWAP’s leadership confirmed that ISWAP killed Shekau on orders from the so-called Islamic State. Back in August 2016, ISIS’ former “caliph” Abubakar al-Baghdadi personally ordered Shekau’s ejection from ISWAP due to Shekau’s excesses, including sending hundreds of girls on suicide bombing operations that killed Muslim civilians.

According to ISWAP, after its fighters invaded Shekau’s bases in Sambisa, Borno State with support from some Shekau faction collaborators, in May, Shekau detonated a suicide bomb, killing himself, rather than being captured by ISWAP. ISWAP had hoped Shekau would instead surrender, pledge loyalty to the Islamic State, and volunteer to bring his fighters under ISWAP’s authority. In his final audiotape before his death, Shekau reiterated that he was in fact loyal to Islamic State but was unwilling to submit to ISWAP leadership. Up until his death, Shekau believed that ISWAP leaders had deceived core Islamic State into recognizing their leadership of the group, bypassing his authority. ISWAP audio releases since Shekau’s death also indicate some of Shekau’s fighters in Sambisa have now joined ISWAP and are relieved to be free from the whims of his capricious command, and especially his brutality. However, Shekau’s highest ranking commander in the Lake Chad region is now fighting against ISWAP, including abducting the group’s family members, in order to avenge Shekau’s death. What remains unclear is what Shekau’s Cameroon-based fighters, who are infamous for their raids of border communities, will choose to do.

At least one of Boko Haram founder Muhammed Yusuf’s sons was believed to be with Shekau in Sambisa. It is unclear whether any of Yusuf’s sons or another Shekau loyalist will step forward to lead the faction after his death. If Shekau’s faction is unable to put forth a strong successor, the group will likely dissolve. The result could be hundreds of roving and marauding fighters who prey on and pillage from civilians without any organizational coherence or strategy, although some members would likely join ISWAP. While Shekau’s faction attempts to sort out its next step, ISWAP is seeking to consolidate in Sambisa. This provides ISWAP a dominant position throughout Borno, with only Lake Chad remaining as a contested region with the remnants of Shekau’s faction. After a lull in ISWAP attacks following Shekau’s death, the group has also restarted attacks, focusing on Diffa, Niger, Damboa, Borno, and most recently, Dikwa, Borno. Shekau’s death will allow ISWAP to continue focusing on attacks against Nigeria’s army while distinguishing ISWAP from Shekau’s methods among civilians through its civilian-centric insurgent strategy. This strategy’s main proponent, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who is also a son of Muhammed Yusuf, was reconfirmed as ISWAP’s leader only days before Shekau’s death.

The Nigerian military does not appear to have changed its counterinsurgency strategy as a result of the confrontations between ISWAP and Shekau’s faction following his death. The government was also caught somewhat flatfooted, watching ISWAP kill Shekau even though the government had proclaimed incorrectly multiple times to have done so. Nevertheless, the key challenge for the Nigerian military is that ISWAP is not only more militarily capable than Shekau’s faction, but it is also more focused on garnering civilian support than Shekau was. ISWAP’s ability to win recruits and gain local support is what ultimately makes it a greater challenge to Nigeria’s army than Shekau’s faction ever could have been with him alive and leading the group.