Below are the takeaways for the week:
- Iranian officials continue to use legal pressure against close affiliates of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deter his ongoing anti-regime rhetoric. Ahmadinejad has attacked reformists and conservatives across the Iranian political establishment repeatedly. The regime responded by sentencing one former Ahmadinejad-era vice president to 15 years in prison and arresting another vice president shortly thereafter.
- Increased Iranian engagement in the Yemen peace process may reflect efforts to avoid international sanctions on its ballistic missile program. The U.S. is leading a push to sanction Iran for violating two UN Security Council resolutions by supplying the al Houthi movement with ballistic missiles. Senior Iranian officials met with senior Omani, al Houthi, and other international officials to discuss Yemeni negotiations several times in the past two months. Iran remains aligned with Russia to supplant U.S. influence in Yemen and the region.
- Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri encouraged direct attacks on the U.S. in a statement that departs from his recent focus on inciting revolutions against governments in the Muslim world. Zawahiri highlighted several of al Qaeda’s past attacks on the U.S., including the 9/11 attacks, as evidence that striking the U.S. is possible with limited resources. Zawahiri’s latest threat is a response to the U.S. decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
- The growth of Emirati influence in northern Somalia is destabilizing the U.S.-backed Somali Federal Government (SFG), threatening the U.S. strategy to counter al Shabaab in Somalia. The SFG accused the UAE of violating its sovereignty in response to a deal allowing an Emirati company and Ethiopia to use Berbera port in Somaliland, northern Somalia, where the UAE also has a military base. The disagreement also sparked a power struggle between Somalia’s parliamentary speaker and prime minister.