Below are the takeaways from the week:
Al Qaeda senior leadership may have assessed an opportunity to consolidate the Salafi-jihadi movement under its leadership as ISIS loses territorial control. Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri emphasized the need for Muslims to unify in their jihad in a pre-recorded speech released during Eid al Adha. An AQAP media arm echoed this call in its first publication after three months, blaming ISIS for infighting among Salafi-jihadi groups. Six group names were included on an announcement that they had fulfilled their bayat to Zawahiri by joining al Qaeda-linked Hurras al Din in Syria.
Revisit Katherine Zimmerman’s op-ed, “The Never-Ending War on Terror.”
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may rule to dismiss President Hassan Rouhani from the presidency if parliamentarians launch a censure vote against Rouhani. Parliamentarians questioned Rouhani on August 28 over his administration’s failure to control Iran’s currency market and high unemployment rate. Parliament expressed their dissatisfaction with Rouhani’s answers and elevated the matter to the Judiciary. Iran’s Judiciary can find Rouhani in breach of Iranian law.
Read the Critical Threats Project’s “Iran’s hardliners are going after the entire Rouhani Administration” to learn more about how hardliners are targeting Rouhani.
Pakistan may increase its support for militant groups in Afghanistan in response to an American effort to expand India’s role in regional security. Pakistan supports the Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan in part to reduce India’s influence on Pakistan’s northern border.
Revisit “Pakistan’s Counter-Militant Offensive: Operation Raddul Fasaad.”
- Widespread ethnic violence in Ethiopia risks weakening Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s support base and destabilizing Ethiopia, a key U.S. security partner in East Africa. Abiy’s diverse support base comprises ethnonationalist parties that could turn away from Abiy’s ambitious reform agenda in the event of continued unrest, weakening the Ethiopian government and setting conditions for greater internal conflict.
For a deeper dive into what's happening relating to the al Qaeda network and Iran, see our regional and country-by-country updates below.
Al Houthi forces may have advanced their offensive drone capabilities to reach the UAE. Al Houthi forces claimed to attack Dubai International Airport with a drone on August 27, one month after claiming a similar attack on Abu Dhabi International Airport. Al Houthi forces have not provided direct evidence of either attack, however, and the UAE has denied both claims. The al Houthis may be withholding evidence to conceal the support of Iran or Iranian proxies for its drone program. Alternately, the al Houthis may be falsely claiming attacks in order to generate domestic backlash against the UAE’s role in Yemen.
The death of chief al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) bombmaker Ibrahim al Asiri will not eliminate AQAP’s sophisticated bombmaking capabilities. U.S. officials confirmed that an American airstrike killed al Asiri in 2017. Al Asiri almost certainly trained other AQAP members and likely trained al Qaeda operatives that are now in Somalia and Syria.
The Pakistani Army will likely increase its support for militant groups in Afghanistan in response to an American push for India to take on a greater role in regional security. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will discuss how to utilize America’s defense partnership with India during meetings with their Indian counterparts in September. Pakistan supports groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan in part to counter Indian influence on its northern border.
Widespread ethnic violence threatens to undermine Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reform agenda and destabilize Ethiopia, a key U.S. security partner in East Africa. Ethiopian authorities arrested 800 people over ethnic violence in two regions last week. Abiy’s support base is a diverse, informal coalition united by opposition to the previous minoritarian and authoritarian regime. Prolonged violence between multiple ethnic groups could cause the ethnonationalist parties that currently back Abiy to secure the interests of their constituencies at the expense of unity or reforms.
Militias are taking advantage of the stalled political process in Libya to secure their interests, destabilizing key parts of the country and setting conditions for renewed conflict that will allow Salafi-jihadi groups to regain strength. The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) may be losing its limited influence over militias it has paid off to keep the peace in Tripoli, where a militia nominally controlled by the GNA’s Ministry of Defense seized a camp from militias nominally controlled by the GNA’s Ministry of Interior. Separately, a militia coalition may be preparing for a renewed attempt to seize the Oil Crescent region and key military sites in southwestern Libya from Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, risking a broader conflict in areas where ISIS and al Qaeda operate.
Several Maghreb governments are attempting to prevent governmental instability that, while unlikely, would have serious regional implications. A power struggle within Tunisia’s ruling party may cause a political crisis in the lead-up to presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019. Algeria’s aging president reshuffled security leadership, signaling efforts to secure power for either his successor or his impending re-election. The king of Morocco released political prisoners and reinstituted compulsory military service in a dual effort to defuse civil unrest and control an increasingly restive youth population.
Iran’s Judiciary may find President Hassan Rouhani in breach of Iranian law. Parliamentarians questioned Rouhani over his administration's failures to control Iran’s currency market and high unemployment on August 28. Parliamentarians expressed their unhappiness with Rouhani’s responses and elevated the issue to the Judiciary. Parliament may soon move to censure Rouhani, potentially giving Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei constitutional ground to remove him from office.