- Saudi Arabia’s execution of 47 “terrorists,” including Shia cleric Nimr al Nimr and al Qaeda members, sparked attacks against the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad, consolidation of the Gulf States behind Saudi Arabia, and vows of vengeance from al Qaeda supporters. The January 2 attacks in Iran will likely impair its attempts to strengthen its role in the international community. Senior Iranian officials condemned both the embassy attacks and the execution itself, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warning Saudi politicians that they will face “divine retribution” for the execution.
- The Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) Wilayat Barqa may be close to success in its campaign to seize Libyan oil infrastructure. The group advanced eastward from its base in Sirte, seizing Bin Jawad and launching suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacks on Libya’s two largest oil export ports, al Sidra and Ras Lanuf. If ISIS Wilayat Barqa can effectively consolidate its territorial gains, it will likely continue to advance eastward and seek control of major oil fields.
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) public stoning to death of a woman convicted of adultery in al Mukalla, Hadramawt, is an inflection point in how the group is enforcing its interpretation of shari’a law. AQAP has governed al Mukalla since April 2015, but has limited its implementation of shari’a in the city. The group rapidly enforced shari’a judgments in territory it controlled in Abyan in 2011, which fed a popular uprising against the group. The shift may be an indicator of AQAP’s confidence in its control of the population.