Critical Threats Today
A regular summary of al Qaeda operations in Yemen and Africa as well as major events in Iran.
These are the major events from March 17 for Iran and for al Qaeda operations in Yemen and Africa. Please see the Iran News Roundup, the Gulf of Aden Security Review, and the weekly Threat Update for more details.
Friday prayer leaders intensified the wave of criticism against President Hassan Rouhani’s administration ahead of the May presidential elections.
Mashhad Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Alam ol Hoda stated that Iran has witnessed “deviation from the Resistance Economy” doctrine, which is designed to insulate the Iranian economy from the impact of sanctions and other external economic shocks. Alam ol Hoda acknowledged that the executive branch alone is not responsible for the implementation of the doctrine, but stressed that “the administration’s duty in this regard is heavy.” Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi-Kermani also called it a “disaster” that the “luxurious life of those in power separates them from the people.” His comments are likely a reference to last year’s salary scandal in which leaks revealed that some Rouhani administration officials had been receiving exorbitant salaries and benefits. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as well as a number of senior conservative politicians and IRGC officials have criticized the Rouhani administration’s ideological commitment and overall performance, especially its implementation of the Resistance Economy, over the last month.
Citations & Links
The al Houthi-Saleh block will leverage a Saudi-led coalition helicopter attack on a Somali refugee boat near Yemen’s western al Hudaydah governorate to challenge the legitimacy of the coalition’s operations on humanitarian grounds.
Al Houthi-Saleh foreign ministry representatives are lobbying the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to accuse the Saudi-led coalition of crimes against humanity in Yemen. Details of the attack such as the ship’s direction away from a combat zone and the al Houthi bloc’s provision of aid to survivors will further deteriorate the Saudi-led coalition’s image abroad. Such blowback is unlikely to impact the Saudi-led coalition’s relationship with the Trump administration or its overall campaign goals.
Citations & Links
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) praised the unification of four groups in the Sahel and Sahara under a single organization, Jama’a Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM).
AQIM’s al Andalus media foundation released a video in which AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel blessed the formation of JNIM and accepted its pledge of allegiance. AQIM is encouraging Salafi-jihadi groups in other parts of the world to build pragmatic coalitions using JNIM as an example.
Citations & Links
The conflict over the oil ports in Libya’s oil crescent region decreased.
The Government of National Accord (GNA)-aligned National Oil Corporation stated that Libya lost over 1 million barrels of oil during the 13 days that the conflict lasted, losing an average of eighty thousand barrels per day (bpd). This brought Libya’s average production from 700 thousand bpd to slightly more than 600 thousand bpd. The Libyan National Army has regained control of the oil ports, though the Islamist forces that took them over on March 3 remain positioned around them. Further disruptions in oil production or damage to the infrastructure could severely affect Libya’s economy, which is heavily dependent on oil sales. (Recommended reading: Ignoring History: America's Losing Strategy in Libya)