[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:
The Libyan civil war is spreading and attracting Salafi-jihadi militants to the battlefield. The Libyan National Army (LNA) may open a front in Sirte in central Libya to counteract the stalling of its offensive on Tripoli. The fighting may continue for months, creating an opportunity for Libyan Salafi-jihadi groups—augmented by fighters reportedly returning from Syria—to reconstitute after suffering losses in Libya in recent years.
Iran progressed toward the operationalization of a trade mechanism that could potentially circumvent U.S. secondary sanctions against Iran. Iran *registered its analog to Europe’s INSTEX on April 22, after the U.S. designated the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization. Despite the recent progress, regime hardliners may refuse to pass key counterterror financing legislation because of recent U.S. actions, potentially jeopardizing the implementation of the trade vehicle with Europe.
For more context, read the Iran File from February 14
Salafi-jihadi militants in Burkina Faso may attempt to stoke confessional tensions to fuel their insurgency, which has so far focused on ethnic, class, and economic grievances. Militants conducted their first attack on a church in northern Burkina Faso on April 28. Salafi-jihadi groups may also target churches to stoke religious tensions in neighboring Christian-majority countries where they seek to expand, notably Ghana, Benin, and Togo.
China is planning long-term investments in Yemen to expand its strategic footprint in the Middle East. Yemen’s internationally recognized government signed a memorandum of understanding to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative on April 25. China may play a larger role in a Yemeni peace process to consolidate its influence in the country. However, China will not take positions on Yemen’s conflict that would compromise its relationship with Saudi Arabia.