U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Counterterrorism
Released July 31, 2012
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA OVERVIEW
The Near East region remained one of the most active in terms of terrorist activity in 2011. Many countries across the region experienced increased instability as a result of the events of the Arab Awakening, and some terrorists attempted to exploit this situation. This was of particular concern as it related to loose munitions from Libyan stocks and the threat of terrorists obtaining Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), which could pose significant risks to regional security and civil aviation.
Multiple terrorist organizations displayed the capability and intent to strike at targets across the region and to garner influence in states undergoing political transitions. Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula gained more physical territory in Yemen as the result of the political turmoil. Al-Qa’ida in Iraq – even with diminished leadership and capabilities – continued to conduct attacks across Iraq, while Shia militants largely ceased attacks but continued to threaten U.S. targets in Iraq. Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) conducted attacks against Algerian government targets and undertook kidnappings elsewhere to extort ransoms. Hizballah in Lebanon remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region. In Israel and the Palestinian territories, several groups maintained the capability to launch attacks and acquired sophisticated weaponry from outside the country.
Iran (see Chapter 3, State Sponsors of Terrorism), continued to be the world’s leading sponsor of terrorist activity. In addition to engaging in its own terrorist plotting, the Iranian government continued to provide financial, material, and logistical support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East. Despite its pledge to support the stabilization of Iraq, Iran continued to provide lethal support, including weapons, training, funding, and guidance, to Iraqi Shia militant groups targeting U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Governments across the region improved their own counterterrorism capabilities despite these persistent threats, effectively disrupting the activities of a number of terrorists. The Iraqi government displayed increased capability and efficacy in pursuing multiple Sunni extremist groups. Though AQIM’s presence and activity in the Sahel remains worrisome, the group’s isolation in Algeria grew as Algeria increased its already substantial efforts to target the group.
While Saudi Arabia remained vulnerable because of the increased instability in Yemen, its efforts to put an end to domestic terrorist activity remained resolute; the Saudi government displayed professionalism in tactical counterterrorism operations and counterterrorist finance. Israel and the Palestinian Authority also worked to diminish the threat posed by various Palestinian terrorist groups and Hizballah, including stopping weapons smuggling in and around Gaza and suicide bombers attempting to attack Israel via Gaza and the West Bank.