Weekly Snapshot
2-8 Sept. 2018

1. US to cut funding for UN aid to Palestinian refugees

Reversing decades of policy of support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Trump administration has decided not to give money to this agency. UNRWA is an agency that helps Palestinian refugees that the UN says have been displaced. The Trump administration is looking to change the refugee statues given by the UN due to most of todays Palestinians being descendants of the original refugees of the 1940’s. This is due to the “right to return” claim that refugees hold. Because Israel now controls the land and generations have grown up outside of that land, the status of refugee is a debated issue.

The ending of this support means the State Department will withhold $60 million dollars. In January of 2018, the State Department released $65 million to UNRWA, while withholding the additional $60 million while the administration made the decision whether or not to continue this policy.

2. Iran used civilian flights to smuggle weapons to Lebanon

Information has come to light that Iran has used civilian flights to smuggle weapons into Lebanon for use by Hezbollah. Intelligence agencies looking into several irregular flights from the Iranian air company Qeshm Fars Air, from Tehran to Beirut led to the findings that Iran was smuggling components for precision weapons, using civilian planes.

Iran and Hezbollah have a long history of working together. Starting with Iran’s creation of the terrorist group in the 1980’s. Since its inception, Iran has been the main financier and supplier to Hezbollah. Iran provides weapons, money, and social support for recruitment. In return, Hezbollah has partaken in several terrorist attacks on Israel and the United States on behalf of Iran.

3. Jalaluddin Haqqani has died

Haqqani was the founding militant and leader of the Haqqani network. A group of terrorist from Afghanistan, who have been affiliated with both the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and were officially labeled as a terrorist group by the United States in 2012. This network helped commite some of the worst suicide attacks on US and Afghan troops. This network started in the 1980’s to fight the Soviet Union, and was quickly turned against the US military in the early 2000’s.

With the death of the founder and leader, Haqqani’s son Sirajuddin, who has been the official leader for a few years, will now take the full role of leadership of this organization. This is a dangerous shift as the tactics of Sirajuddin are not as well known, and he may try to expand and increase operations. Those who find themselves in leadership positions in terrorist groups often feel the need to prove their worthiness with larger, bolder attacks. The dangers posed by this leadership change are threatening to those within the networks reach, specifically US forces in Afghanistan.

4. Iran Gives Ballistic Missiles to Iraqi Shiite Militias

Iran is widely known as the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world.This includes supporting and even creating groups with money, propaganda and military equipment. After Iran’s successful creation and operation of Hezbollah, they are looking to replicate that success with groups all around the middle east. This includes Shiite militias in Iraq.

Giving ballistic missiles to this group adds a layer of protection to Iran. If these missiles are used against their proposed targets of Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran would have successfully engaged in military action without putting their own troops in contact and without reaching their own borders.

This tactic is not a new one. Iran has been known to give ballistic missiles to terrorist groups in Yemen that have already used them to attack Saudi Arabia. This shows the level of dedication that these groups have to their state sponsors. This not only helps Iran with unofficial attacks on other nations but also gives Iran political say in the countries these terrorists are from. By spreading their resources to several countries, they are growing their influence in the hopes of becoming a regional hegemon.