Below are the takeaways from the week:
Iran will retaliate militarily against ISIS or the Iranian separatist group, al Ahvaziyeh, after they separately claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, on September 22. ISIS is most likely responsible for the attack. Iran previously launched a missile strike targeting ISIS in Syria in response to ISIS’s June 2017 attack in Tehran. Iran will likely leverage its blame of al Ahvaziyeh to crackdown on the anti-regime group.
The Ethiopian government’s aggressive response to intercommunal violence may worsen ethnic tensions and fracture Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s governing coalition, paralyzing a key US partner in the region. Ethnic clashes spread to the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, where authorities arrested thousands and temporarily blocked the internet. Abiy’s ambitious reform agenda relies on compromise between multiple ethnic groups, which have competing demands.
Somalia’s president missed the UN General Assembly to address a domestic political crisis, highlighting weakness in the Somali Federal Government (SFG) that threatens the partner-reliant U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Somali President Farmajo is negotiating with five Federal Member States that suspended ties with the SFG on September 8. Hirshabelle state restored ties, likely in return for a larger share of the national budget, which the other states also demand.
The Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA) overran multiple Nigerian bases between August 30 and September 13, gaining materiel for possible use to seize additional terrain in northeastern Nigeria or to conduct attacks in major cities. ISWA may now expand into more populated areas in northeastern Nigeria. The rumored purge of a relatively moderate commander, Mamman Nur, may herald more attacks on civilians, which could eventually diminish ISWA’s popular appeal.
Militants in Burkina Faso identified themselves as al Qaeda, demonstrating the resonance of al Qaeda’s vision in the Sahel. Burkinabe militants announced their affiliation in a video released by a distributor of al Qaeda media. Al Qaeda leadership is not commanding the escalating Salafi-jihadi insurgency in Burkina Faso, but militants influenced by al Qaeda’s guidance are weakening the state and driving out Western influence in line with al Qaeda’s objectives.