After the horrific attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, al-Shabab leaders have vowed to wage a “long war” against Kenya, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Randy Bell questions whether “we were exaggerating” the group’s decline. Bronwyn Bruton argues that “al-Shabab has found its footing in Kenya by exploiting domestic grievances”, and journalist Jeremy Scahill notes that splits within the organization mean that there is no single al-Shabab — citing the recent murder of American-born al-Shabab associate Omar Hammami by rival members of the group — and ties the attack to US activities in Somalia.
Abdihakim Ainte writes that al-Shabab has reformed itself into an amorphous terrorist threat, and that Kenya seems “to have underestimated the adaptability and vitality of the organization’s threat.” Bruce Riedel sees the group’s transformation and transnational reach as emblematic of “one of the keys to al-Qaeda’s remarkable regenerative capacity,” and Daniel Solomon questions the meaning of al-Shabaab’s “strength”.
In a potentially serious blow to Western Syria policy opposition groups have tentatively formed a cooperative Islamic bloc, with the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front the new group’s lead signatory. The move leaves General Salim Idriss, the head of the moderate Supreme Military Council and face of the secular opposition, “directly responsible for just a handful of small units.” Aron Lund has more, including caveats, calling the agreement “the rebellion of a large part of the ‘mainstream FSA’ against its purported political leadership.”
Juan Cole writes that the American strategy of supporting moderates “has now almost completely fallen apart” and that future concrete aid to the rebels is becoming less and less politically possible. Rania Abouzeid sums up the rebels’ message: “the Western-backed hotel revolutionaries jetting from capital to capital, claiming leadership in the political National Coalition and an interim government-to-be, don’t speak for them—and they won’t listen to them.” Daniel Larison fumes that “this news should also remind us that administration officials were misleading the public and Congress about the composition of Syrian rebel forces, and they were deliberately minimizing the role of Islamist groups in the opposition as part of their clumsy push for military action.”
In rare good news from Syria, the Assad regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles appear to consist of liquid precursors that can be more quickly neutralized than previously thought.
The Council on Foreign Relations passes along an alternative view of the Syrian deal from Iranian Press TV’s Zaher Mahruqi. “While it will be naive to assume that Bashar will hold on to power indefinitely,” Mahruqi writes, “it is clear that the Syrian civil conflict will be a long term struggle and will not end nor conclude the way the US and Israel are hoping for.”