[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk(*) for the reader's awareness.]
Below are the takeaways from the week:
Iran may resume threatening commercial traffic near the Strait of Hormuz to impose a cost on the US and Europe for the US maximum pressure strategy. Recent visits by *Iranian*commanders to naval positions near the strait in recent days may signal preparations for an attack or a response to the US military buildup in the region. This comes as Iran violates the nuclear deal to pressure Europe to offer economic concessions for its compliance.
The US military struck an al Qaeda faction plotting external attacks in northwestern Syria for the first time since 2017. The air strike targeted militants planning attacks on US citizens, partners, and civilians. The group included several North African foreign fighters. A stalemate among Syrian forces, al Qaeda–linked groups, and Turkish-backed opposition has created conditions for al Qaeda to establish an enduring safe haven in northwestern Syria.
The al Houthi movement is sustaining an elevated attack tempo against Saudi infrastructure. The Houthis launched several drone attacks between June 29 and July 2, including one that struck Abha airport and caused casualties for the third time in the past month. The Houthis escalated attacks on Saudi Arabia in tandem with an Iranian escalation in the Gulf of Oman in June.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is capitalizing on backlash against Emirati-backed Yemeni factions to attack security forces in central and southern Yemen. AQAP increased attacks in the Abyan and Bayda governorates, including its first vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack in months, and threatened attacks in Shabwah. This uptick occurs as tensions spike between UAE-backed southern Yemeni factions and Hadi government–aligned groups over control of strategic positions in southern Yemen.
Political crises in Sudan and Algeria are stalemating and may become more violent, increasing the likelihood of civil war or state collapse. Violent crackdowns by Sudan’s military government have not deterred protesters, who are planning a major demonstration in mid-July that may lead to a broader conflict. The political impasse in Algeria is protracting as authorities gradually increase repression of protesters, setting conditions for a crackdown and the emergence of violent unrest.
Geopolitical competition that threatens US interests is increasing in the western Sahel region. A military cooperation agreement between Russia and Mali, which builds on historic ties, signals a potential effort to capitalize on waning Western support for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. The Gulf states and Turkey, whose jockeying has destabilized other areas, are also competing for influence in Mali by providing funding and materiel.
US partners are supplying weapons — including US-made anti-tank missiles— to militias in Libya, prolonging a conflict that is allowing Islamic State– and al Qaeda–linked militants to expand their operations in the country. The UAE supplied Javelin missiles and a Russian-made air defense system to Libyan militia commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been attempting to seize Libya’s capital since April. Turkey has increased its military support for anti-Haftar forces in a bid to counter Haftar’s external backers, which include the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.