What Our Analysts Are Reading — 10/3

What Our Analysts Are Reading — 10/3

Navanti’s data collection and analysis are based on networks of on-the-ground researchers from all walks of life: journalists, academics, and humanitarian workers, to name a few. But our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, Navanti analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important articles they read over the past two weeks, and added some insightful recent quotes from researchers. Some of these articles are breaking news items, while others are academic studies published months ago; all will advance the reader’s understanding of current conflict dynamics.

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East Africa

Al-Shabaab (AS) conducted attacks against a US Special Forces base in Balidogle and an Italian military convoy for the EU Training Mission in Somalia in Mogadishu. Official sources confirm there were no casualties, despite AS claims that they killed over 100 military personnel. AS is likely to continue putting pressure on international entities that support the Somali National Army (SNA) in an attempt to isolate it and degrade its efforts against AS throughout Somalia. — Al Jazeera

Rivalries between the countries participating in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are distracting from the main objectives of AMISOM’s intervention, with countries attempting to influence competing Somali regional actors. These political conflicts may exacerbate the impact of AMISOM’s planned withdrawal from Somalia in 2021. AMISOM contingents should focus on ensuring the SNA is prepared to prevent AS from retaking liberated territories in post-AMISOM Somalia. — The East African

Ethiopian officials arrested several members of AS and the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS), who were allegedly planning to conduct attacks in the country. Military officials said that there is evidence that ISIS “has recruited, trained and armed some Ethiopians.” The group’s expansion into Ethiopia is facilitated by the country’s shared porous borders with Somalia, where ISS activity has been rising for the past few months. — Africa News

A Navanti researcher, who works as a soldier in Jijiga—located in the Somali region of Ethiopia—had this to say about ISS’s recent release of a video featuring a chant in Amharic: “IS sees in Ethiopia a potential opportunity, the group has been expanding its influences and its activities across Africa quite aggressively — so far with small results in much of the continent, although they are persisting.”

Competition between Gulf states has been increasing in the Horn of Africa, which may serve the Gulf countries’ short-term political and economic goals; but the threats to regional security that might arise from this competition are likely to harm long-term stability in the fragile but strategically-crucial region. — International Crisis Group

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West Africa

An increase in violent extremist activity in Burkina Faso over the past four years has forced the closure of some 2,000 schools, causing about 330,000 students to forgo their education. Extremist groups have commonly begun to threaten and assassinate teachers, primarily in the country’s northern and eastern border regions, leading to over 9,000 teachers fleeing. — Le Monde (French)

The recent withdrawal of rebel factions from Mali’s national dialogue demonstrates the instability of the 2015 Algiers Accord. While substantial progress on negotiations has been made, including large commitments to reintegrate fighters, violence in the area and mutual suspicions continue to threaten the peace process. — Deutsche Welle (French)

Two international NGOs, Mercy Corps and Action Against Hunger, have withdrawn from operations in Nigeria’s northwestern states after the Nigerian army accused them of aiding Boko Haram insurgents. Sources familiar with the matter say the Nigerian government sees the aid as bad PR and disagrees with these NGOs’ policies of providing food aid to everyone in displacement camps, even those suspected of having ties to Boko Haram. — Quartz

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North Africa

Wolfram Lacher addresses common misconceptions surrounding the structure of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Libyan National Army (LNA) coalitions in the Libyan conflict. Lacher argues that hardline Salafists and pro-Gaddafi regime forces form a central component of Hifter’s LNA, while the GNA alliance is mostly made up of volunteers resisting a perceived return to authoritarianism, rather than just predatory militias. — Small Arms Survey

A Navanti researcher in the oasis town of Zellah in southwest Libya had this to say on his country’s ongoing conflict: “The Salafists are trying to recruit fighters on both sides to control the gears of the state behind the scenes. They are more dangerous than both Hifter’s forces and the GNA.”

Emadeddin Badi attacks the “authoritarian stability” paradigm underpinning, he argues, the support of certain foreign states for Hifter in Libya — such as France and the UAE. Badi shows that Hifter’s policies have failed to deliver any semblance of stability to Libya; his unrepentant focus on occupying Tripoli is alienating key constituencies in his eastern Libyan base and whipping up ethnic violence in Libya’s southern Fezzan region. — Middle East Institute

The MENA team at Chatham House breaks down the prevailing Gaddafi-era structure of Libya’s political economy, arguing that the heavy centralization of oil wealth distribution is driving armed actors to compete for control of state institutions and revenue streams. The authors contend that a policy of decentralization coupled with transparency and accountability in the distribution of state funds is key to addressing the conflict’s structural basis. — Chatham House

Fishermen in Al-Hudaydah Governorate, Yemen. Source: Navanti

Fishermen in Al-Hudaydah Governorate, Yemen. Source: Navanti

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Yemen

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) issued a new report assessing dire outcomes for poverty in Yemen: if the current war continues through 2022, Yemen will be the poorest country in the world. Currently over 80% of Yemen’s population requires humanitarian assistance and 30% are malnourished. Nearly half could be malnourished if fighting continues through 2022, and nearly 80% could be below the poverty line. — UNDP

Houthi forces claimed to capture 2000 Saudi-led Coalition soldiers during an operation in Najran, Saudi Arabia. Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki dismissed the claim as Houthi ’theatrics,” attributing it to a wider Houthi disinformation campaign. Given other recent Houthi fabrications, such as the widely contested claim to the recent Aramco attacks, Houthi forces are likely exaggerating their success in order to bolster threat projection. — Al-Hurra (Arabic)

Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hadrami condemned the UAE for supporting the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and launching airstrikes on National Army (NA) positions during a speech at the UN General Assembly. Pro-Emirati and even pro-Saudi news outlets cut coverage of the speech short, potentially indicating a desire to mitigate perceptions of the Saudi-led Coalition as fractured. — Al-Khaleej (Arabic)

Following a Houthi declaration of a unilateral ceasefire on 27 SEP 19, the KSA reportedly agreed to a partial ceasefire in certain areas, including Sana'a. While each side has questioned the other's intent to de-escalate the conflict, both the Houthis and KSA may be under increasing pressure to take measures to seek a politically negotiated solution to end the years long conflict. — Wall Street Journal

A Navanti researcher from Hudaydah city, who currently resides in Sana’a, said the following regarding Tareq Saleh, the nephew of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and current head of the Joint Resistance Forces fighting the Houthis in al-Hudaydah governorate: “Tareq’s relationship with residents has gotten worse because of his cooperation with the UAE…a lot of the fighters with the Elite Tihama Forces left Tareq [Saleh] and joined Hadi after the Aden coup.'“

Iraq

Iraqi president Barham Salih met with four Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leaders to warn them that Baghdad plans to cut the KRG’s share of the federal budget, including salaries for KRG employees, if Erbil does not deliver on promises to send 250,000 barrels per day to the state oil organization. — Al-Monitor

Widespread popular condemnation met Iraqi PM Adel Abdul Mahdi’s decision to effectively demote the country’s second-in-command of the the Counter-Terrorism Service, Abdel Wahhab al-Saadi, by moving him to a different bureau. Al-Saadi is considered by many Iraqis to be a war hero in the fight against ISIS. Some analysts see Iran’s hand in the decision to reshuffle his post, considering Iran’s ongoing tension with regular Iraqi armed forces. — Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (Arabic)

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Syria

Syria and Iraq have reopened the al-Qaim — Albukamal border crossing, with Iranian and Russian support. This will facilitate Iran’s supplying of proxy militias in Syria and Lebanon, and provide an economic lifeline as Tehran suffers under strict sanctions, but it might provoke an Israeli response. A series of airstrikes, most likely Israeli, have recently struck Iranian positions near the crossing. — Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (Arabic)

UN’s Special Envoy for Syria Gheir Pedersen talks to al-Monitor about the long-awaited formation of the Constitutional Committee, emphasizing that the formation of the committee is a “door opener for a broader political process.” Pedersen also touches on issues of detainee release, the situation in Idlib, and refugee return. — Al-Monitor

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Eastern Europe & The Balkans

Armenia's delicate strategic position means its reformist leader must navigate complicated political waters as Putin and others visit Yerevan. — Eurasianet

A battered economy in Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria has left its small Jewish community looking for an exit plan. — Times of Israel

What Our Analysts Are Reading — 10/17

What Our Analysts Are Reading — 10/17

Iranian Kurdish Porters Face Death With Every Trip Into Iraq

Iranian Kurdish Porters Face Death With Every Trip Into Iraq