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The Threat Update will take a break for the next two weeks and resume the week of January 7, 2019. See you next year!
Below are the takeaways from the week:
Ongoing labor strikes in southwestern Iran could catalyze the renewal of anti-regime protests on or around December 28, the anniversary of last year's widespread anti-regime protests. Regime security forces have arrested 41 steel workers in southwestern Iran since the strikes began on November 10. Workers threatened to hold demonstrations in Tehran if their demands are not met. Steel workers have held intermittent strikes since February 2018 over unpaid wages.
The implementation of the UN-brokered agreement on al Hudaydah is at risk because the parties will likely disagree over which authorities will administer the city. The agreement requires combatants to withdraw from the city within 21 days and transfer responsibility to “local security forces in accordance with Yemeni law.” Al Houthi leaders have claimed this authority for their existing officials, whom the internationally recognized Yemeni government is unlikely to accept.
HORN OF AFRICA
The arrest of a Somali Islamic State member who was planning attacks in Italy may indicate that the Somali branch intends to globalize its operations, continuing a trend demonstrated by other Islamic State affiliates. The suspect was in contact with an Islamic State cell based in Somalia. The Islamic State branch in Somalia may pursue external attacks as it escalates its competition with al Qaeda’s Somali affiliate, al Shabaab.
A renewed surge of ethnic conflict in northern and central Mali will drive recruitment opportunities for Salafi-jihadi groups, mitigating the effects of recent French counterterrorism operations. Attackers killed dozens of Tuareg civilians in northern Mali on December 12-13, and gunmen killed 15 Fulani civilians in central Mali the week prior. Salafi-jihadi groups recruit by entering ethnic conflicts on the side of vulnerable communities that lack their own militias or protection from the state.
For more context see our newest update on the Salafi-jihadi base in Sahel: "The Salafi-Jihadi Base in the Sahel: December 2018"
Russia may use its political leverage in Libya to obtain military basing on the central Mediterranean coast. The Libyan parliamentary speaker invited Russia to train the Libyan military, which could give Moscow cover to establish an air or naval position. Russian officials are cultivating ties with potential Libyan presidential candidates and will likely exploit pre-election jockeying to secure military and economic objectives.
For more, visit our partner’s work on Russia in Africa.