Update and Assessment: January 20, 2016

January 20, 2016

Key Takeaways:

  1. The U.S. and EU revoked nuclear-related sanctions after the IAEA issued its report verifying Iran’s compliance with its commitments under the nuclear deal. The full effects of sanction relief are unlikely to be fully felt before the all-important parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections in February, however. Iran also released two U.S. Navy vessels and 10 sailors on January 13, following their overnight detention after a purported mechanical error caused the vessels to drift into Iranian territorial waters on January 12.
  2. Al Qaeda-linked groups continue to target Westerners in the Sahel region. At least three Islamist militants attacked a café and a hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, on January 15, temporarily holding about 180 hostages and killing at least 28 people. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed credit for the attack on behalf of its affiliate al Murabitoun, which reunited with AQIM in late 2015 and participated in the November 20 hotel attack in Bamako, Mali. AQIM cited Western presence in the Sahel as justification for the attack. The attack underscores a high level of coordination between AQIM and its affiliates in the Sahel and signals that further attacks on Western targets in regional capitals are likely. 
  3. Al Shabaab continued a military campaign of high-profile raids of AMISOM bases. Al Shabaab militants attacked a Kenyan AMISOM unit based in el Adde, Gedo region, stealing equipment and claiming to have killed over 100 soldiers. Kenyan and AMISOM officials have acknowledged the deaths of soldiers, but have not given a casualty figure. This attack is the third in a series of attacks that began in June 2015 against a Burundian-run base in Lego, Bay region, and a September 2015 attack against a Ugandan-run base in Janale, Lower Shabelle region.