Middle East & North Africa Regional Summary Middle East & North Africa Regional Summary September 2015

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  • Max Security Solutions Ltd. Office: +44 20 3540 0434 www.max-security.com

    Middle East & North Africa Regional Summary

    September 2015

  • Max Security Solutions Ltd. Office: +44 20 3540 0434 www.max-security.com

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    Month Day, Yea Executive Summary

    In North Africa, the Islamic State (IS) conducted a car bomb attack on a state security building

    in Cairo, Egypt, as well as executed a Croatian national it kidnapped from the city last month,

    thereby highlighting the group’s ability to operate within the capital, while suggesting the

    possibility that a new affiliate of the group in Egypt may be declared in the coming weeks. In

    Libya, IS was able to suppress the Salafist insurrection in Sirte, reaffirming their control over

    the city and its surrounding areas, while the political dialogue in the country continues to

    stagnate. In Algeria, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika discharged another commander of an

    elite unit tasked with his security, underscoring the possibility that he may perceive his rule

    and safety as being at risk. Finally, two attacks were recorded in Tunisia this month, including

    by an al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) affiliate, and may be attributed to the ongoing

    competition between IS and AQIM in the region.

    In the Persian Gulf region, Saudi Arabia was once again targeted by the Islamic State (IS), as

    the Sunni militant group’s Saudi Arabia branch claimed responsibility for an attack in the Asir

    Province that killed 15 people, underscoring the growing capabilities of the group to carry out

    attacks on Saudi soil. In Yemen, anti-Houthi forces continue to make advances in the

    southern regions of Taiz after the notable recapturing of Aden in July. These gains underscore

    the increased abilities of anti-Houthi forces to engage militarily with Houthi militias, amid

    improved Saudi-led coalition aerial support. Following the nuclear agreement signed in July

    between Iran and the P5+1, Britain officially reopened its embassy in Tehran in a symbolic act

    that highlights the easing of tensions between Iran and the West. In Kuwait, the dismantling

    of a militant cell near the Iraqi border underlines the militant threat and heightened concerns

    of the authorities regarding extremists. Finally, in Bahrain, an uptick in protests was recorded

    surrounding Independence Day, underscoring opposition's tendency to utilize symbolic

    events to increase turnouts.

    In the Levant region, Lebanon has witnessed a series of large-scale protests condemning the

    ongoing garbage crisis, which are likely to continue as no solution has been reached and may

    in the long run threaten the government’s viability. In Syria, an intensification in clashes has

    been witnessed between pro-regime forces and rebels in the al-Ghab Valley, while in Iraq,

    the pro-government forces’ campaign to recapture the Anbar Province continues, with gains

    made near Anbar University. In Turkey, hostilities continue on a near-daily basis between

    Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and Turkish forces throughout the southeast, with

    no sign of dissipating at this time. Lastly, an uptick in violent acts continues to be recorded

    between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

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    The following list contains countries in the region with notable developments from the

    past month. Please choose your country of interest by clicking on its link below.

    EXTREME RISK

    Syria ....................................................................................................................................... 4

    Yemen .................................................................................................................................... 5

    HIGH RISK

    Iraq......................................................................................................................................... 6

    Lebanon ................................................................................................................................. 7

    Libya....................................................................................................................................... 8

    MEDIUM RISK

    Algeria .................................................................................................................................... 9

    Bahrain ................................................................................................................................ 10

    Egypt .................................................................................................................................... 11

    Iran....................................................................................................................................... 12

    Israel & Palestinian Territories ............................................................................................ 13

    Saudi Arabia ......................................................................................................................... 14

    Tunisia ................................................................................................................................. 15

    Turkey .................................................................................................................................. 16

    LOW RISK

    Kuwait .................................................................................................................................. 17

    Notable Dates for September 2015 ................................................................................ 18

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     Heavy clashes reported between the Jaysh al-Fath rebel coalition and the Syrian Arab

    Army (SAA) in the al-Ghab Valley following a major regime offensive on August 19,

    resulting in back-and-forth changes of control over areas of the valley.

     The Islamic State’s (IS) launches numerous failed attacks on Aleppo provinces’ SAA-

    controlled Kuweires Airbase throughout the month.

     We advise against all travel to Damascus and Aleppo, given the general threat of

    indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling from government forces as

    well as attacks by various militant groups.

    Intensification of clashes between Jaysh al-Fath and SAA in the al-Ghab Valley

    Over the past several weeks, areas in the al-Ghab valley have frequently exchanged hands

    between Jaysh al-Fath and SAA forces. Most recently, fighting has intensified alongside the

    northwestern Latakia Province side of the valley. Following the regime offensive and

    reported advances of SAA forces in this area since August 23, reports indicate that the rebels

    have on August 27 recaptured several towns along Route 56 and also approached the village

    of Joureen, a regime stronghold located at the threshold of Latakia Province. These events

    highlight the area’s strategic significance to both parties as it serves as crossroads between

    the Hama, Latakia, Homs, and Idlib Provinces. Furthermore, as the regime offensive follows

    increased rocket fire at regime targets in the Latakia Province by rebel forces from the al-

    Ghab Valley, the SAA offensive was likely an attempt to remove this threat form Latakia,

    which is a significant regime stronghold. That said, the fact that the rebels were able to repel

    the offensive, and in cases even compensate for their loss of territory, underscores their

    enhanced capabilities in the area vis-à-vis the SAA. In this context, we assess that a renewed

    SAA counteroffensive at the northwestern side of the valley may be recorded in the coming

    days, which in turn will result in further clashes between the parties, and possibly further

    changes of territorial control, over the coming weeks.

    IS launches several assaults on Kuweires Airbase, located 42 km east of Aleppo

    Reportedly, IS launched five assaults on the base, on August 9, August 11, August 15, August

    21, and August 28. The increased attempts by IS to capture the base, as well as the SAA’s

    hitherto success in sustaining control over it despite the IS siege, highlights the strategic

    importance of the base to both parties. This is due to the location of the base, which is

    situated along Route 4 leading to the city of Aleppo, as well as it being one of the last

    airfields in the area that remain under SAA control. In this context, should IS eventually be

    able to gain control over the base, it will likely drastically decrease the Syrian Arab Air Force

    (SAAF) capabilities in the Aleppo Province, as well as improve the Sunni jihadist group’s

    positions in preparation for a potential future assault on the city of Aleppo. With this in

    mind, additional heavy clashes between the two parties in the vicinity of