CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.

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September 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

Authorities violently repressed nationwide protests ignited by death of young woman in police custody; talks to revive nuclear deal faltered once more.

Security forces’ crackdown on mass protests killed dozens. Morality police mid-month detained 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini for failing to properly wear hijab (compulsory under Iranian law); Amini later died in hospital, allegedly out of severe injuries from police beating in custody. Death sparked widespread outrage and protests involving thousands in dozens of cities across country; security forces immediately responded with force, reportedly killing at least 40 protesters (and possibly dozens more), arresting hundreds and throttling nationwide internet access. Revolutionary Guards launched attacks against Kurdish dissident groups in northern Iraq, alleging role in unrest (see Iraq).

Nuclear negotiations appeared to stumble short of finish line, dashing hopes of imminent breakthrough. U.S. assessed Iran’s 1 Sept response following series of back-and-forth exchanges as “moving backwards”. EU High Representative Josep Borrell 14 Sept acknowledgeda kind of stalemate... I don’t have anything more to propose”; looming U.S. midterm elections could keep talks in holding pattern for foreseeable future, while Tehran’s demands to close International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards probe and have guarantees on sanctions relief likely to remain sticking points. Addressing IAEA Board of Governors on 12 Sept, Director General Rafael Grossi noted challenges in conducting oversight given curtailed access and reported no progress in clarifying safeguards concerns; 23 of board’s 25 members 14 Sept urged Tehran to “resolve all outstanding safeguards issues.

Tensions persisted between U.S. and Iran. Albania 7 Sept severed diplomatic ties with Iran over 15 July cyberattack; U.S. National Security Council same day blamed Iran for reckless and irresponsible act. U.S. 8 Sept blacklisted several Iranian individuals and companies engaged in development of drones and their transfer to Russia and 14 Sept designated dozen persons and entities linked to Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, citing “malicious cyber attacksIn response to crackdown of protests, U.S. 22 Sept sanctioned Morality Police and seven officials. U.S. Navy 2 Sept announced Iranian Navy ship seized and subsequently released pair of U.S. unmanned surface vessels, following similar incident late Aug.

Iraq

Govt formation made modest progress amid tense atmosphere, Türkiye and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) battled in north, and Iranian forces struck Kurdistan region.

Govt formation slowly progressed amid violence. PM al-Kadhimi 5 Sept convened second round of talks to resolve political deadlock, which Sadrists boycotted. Supreme Court 7 Sept ruled it could not dissolve parliament, key demand of Sadrists. Shiite Coordination Framework 28 Sept pushed for parliamentary session, which was attended by more than 200 MPs despite Sadrist supporters staging protests outside Green Zone; session reached quorum to elect new deputy speaker to replace resigned Sadrist MP, also reaffirmed support for current speaker. As session ended, Sadrist protesters clashed with security forces outside Green Zone, causing injuries on both sides; rockets 28-29 Sept struck Green Zone. Earlier in month, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam forces and Iran-aligned Asaib Ahl al-Haq 1 Sept clashed in Basra city, killing at least four.

North witnessed uptick in attacks between Türkiye and PKK. Turkish drone attack 11 Sept killed two PKK members in Sinjar, Ninewa governorate. Later same day, Türkiye claimed PKK killed four Turkish soldiers in Kurdistan region and 12 Sept an-nounced killing three PKK members in Khalifan district of Kurdistan. Turkish intelligence 14 Sept arrested two PKK members in Makhmour refugee camp, Ninewa governorate; next day said it had neutralised five PKK members. Meanwhile, Turkish intelligence chief 10-11 Sept met senior officials, including president and PM, indicating Ankara’s desire to mend ties after Türkiye’s July attack, which killed nine civilians, and regain Baghdad’s support for operation against PKK.

Iranian forces heavily shelled northern Kurdistan. Amid protests in Iran (see Iran), Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards claimed responsibility for missile and drone strikes targeting Iranian Kurdish opposition parties beginning 24 Sept; notably, strikes 28 Sept killed at least 13 people and wounded 58, including civilians; guards claimed attacks targeted bases of “separatist terrorists”, accused them of key role in unrest. U.S. military 28 Sept downed Iranian drone reportedly targeting Erbil.

Military continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS). Notably, military 10 Sept said airstrikes had killed dozen ISIS members, including two commanders in Hamrin mountains, Salah al-Din governorate.

Saudi Arabia

Authorities voiced support for efforts to extend Yemen truce; amid global energy crisis, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) cut oil production.

Saudi Arabia welcomed efforts to renew Yemen truce. Ahead of UN-brokered truce in Yemen’s expiry on 2 Oct (see Yemen), FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 24 Sept said: “We think it must be extended, however, the signs are not positive” and accused Huthis of not meeting their obligations under truce.

Amid global energy crisis, OPEC+ cut oil production. OPEC+ 5 Sept announced cutting oil production by 100,000 barrels per day, prompting around 3% rise in oil prices; moves follows initial announcement in Aug to increase production following U.S. pressure to do so. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 13 Sept met European Council President Charles Michel and 24 Sept met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss deepening energy partnership. FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 4 Sept met Egyptian President al-Sisi in Egyptian capital Cairo, amid wider efforts by Gulf states to bolster Egyptian economy.

Riyadh pursued regional and international engagement, notably on security issues. Riyadh 7 Sept hosted Gulf Cooperation Council ministerial meeting on strategic dialogue with Central Asian countries in which ministers outlined plans to enhance security, economic and political ties. In positive sign of ongoing intra-Gulf Cooperation Council reconciliation efforts, army chief of staff of 8 Sept undertook official state visit in Qatar to expand military and defence cooperation.

Yemen

Efforts to extend UN-brokered truce stalled ahead of Oct deadline amid govt disunity and Huthi military build-up, raising spectre of return to full-scale fighting.

Govt and Huthis failed to overcome key sticking points to renew truce. Ahead of expiry of UN-brokered truce on 2 Oct, efforts to secure third extension remained deadlocked amid fear of return to front-line hostilities; main sticking points included Huthi demand for disbursement of salary payments to areas under their control and govt demand for Huthis to first reopen roads in and around Taiz city. Flurry of diplomacy continued: notably, head of Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) Rashad al-Alimi during month met UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg, U.S. Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Grundberg 3-5 Sept met Iranian FM Hossein Amir Abdollahian who reiterated Huthis’ call for lifting “blockade” and disbursing salary payments; Huthis 28 Sept reiterated threats to not extend while Grunberg warned “real risk” of return to war.

Anti-Huthi bloc faced fragmentation amid simmering tensions in south. Following deadly clashes in Aug between PLC factions that saw United Arab Emirates-aligned forces consolidate control of Shebwa and Southern Transition Council (STC) late Aug advance into Lawdar, capital of Abyan governorate, situation in south calmed during month; however, STC signalled intent to push further east into oil-rich Hadramawt and Mahra governorates. Protests supported by STC occurred throughout month in Hadramawt and Mahrah governorates demanding replacement of Islah forces from security positions.

Huthis continued military build-up in Hodeida, al-Qaeda struck in south. Huthis 1 Sept held military parade in Hodeida city; UN mission in Hodeida same day condemned parade as violation of 2018 Hodeida agreement. Huthis 21 Sept held another military parade in capital Sanaa as govt same day held military parades in Marib and Taiz; Huthis may believe resumption of hostilities favours them after weeks of PLC infighting. Meanwhile, suspected al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) 6 Sept launched deadly attack on security post in Ahwar, Abyan province, sparking clashes that killed 21 troops and eight militants.

August 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

U.S. and Iran returned to EU-brokered talks in most substantive engagement to restore nuclear accord since March, leading to back-and-forth exchanges as prospects for final deal remained uncertain. After EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell late July said he had shared text for parties’ consideration that was “the best possible deal”, Borrell’s deputy Enrique Mora 3 Aug announced deliberations between U.S., Iran and other signatories of 2015 deal would resume next day in Austrian capital Vienna for first in-person talks since March. Borrell 8 Aug asserted “Behind every technical issue and every paragraph lies a political decision that needs to be taken in the capitals”. Iran’s lead negotiator, Ali Bagheri-Kani, 15 Aug briefed Supreme National Security Council in advance of Tehran communicating its response to Brussels. U.S. 24 Aug conveyed counter-proposal, which as of late Aug remained under review by Iranians. Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 3 Aug informed member states that Iran had installed three cascades of IR-6 centrifuges at Natanz nuclear facility, and notified agency of its intent to install further six IR-2m centrifuge cascades. In fourth set of U.S. energy-related sanctions since late May, U.S. 1 Aug sanctioned six companies engaged in petroleum and petrochemical sales to East Asia. Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran same day said it would “launch and inject gas into hundreds of centrifuge machines, including advanced machines”; FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian framed move as direct reaction to U.S. designations. U.S. forces and “Iran-backed militia groups” conducted tit-for-tat attacks in Syria (see Syria). U.S. Department of Justice 10 Aug charged Iranian national, identified as member of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), over plot to kill former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton; White House warned of “severe consequences” in event of attack against U.S. citizens, while Iran’s foreign ministry denounced accusations as “threadbare and baseless myths”. U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken 14 Aug denounced Iranian govt’s incitement of violence against Salman Rushdie as “despicable” following 12 Aug attack against author, who was subject of 1989 fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini. Both incidents could fuel political opposition in U.S. to negotiating with Tehran.

Iraq

Unrest escalated further in capital Baghdad, where armed clashes between rival Shiite factions killed 30; ruling Kurdish parties quashed protests in Kurdistan. After supporters of populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed parliament in capital Baghdad in late July, thousands of anti-Sadr protestors 1 Aug demonstrated outside Baghdad’s Green Zone. Sadr 3 Aug called for protestors to continue sit-in outside parliament, demanded dissolution of parliament, constitutional amendments and early elections; rival Nuri al-Maliki 8 Aug refused demands. Rival bloc Shiite Coordination Framework 12 Aug began sit-in outside Green Zone, demanding govt formation and resumption of parliament meetings. Sadrist protestors 22-23 Aug gathered outside Supreme Judicial Council in Green Zone after Sadr 10 Aug had called on body to dissolve parliament. Shiite leader Kazem al-Haeri 29 Aug announced retirement and encouraged his own followers to support Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei; in response, Sadr announced retirement, leaving his supporters to demonstrate without guidance. Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) that night fired on Sadrist protesters in Green Zone; Saraya Salam, armed wing of Sadr movement, deployed in response, leading to violent fighting that killed 30 and wounded over 200. Sadr supporters attacked PMF offices across southern provinces. Sadr next day called for calm and supporters’ withdrawal. Deadly clashes night of 31 Aug reportedly spread to southern city Basra. In Kurdistan region, ruling Kurdish parties Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) 6 Aug quashed protests called by leader of New Generation Movement against delayed govt salary payments, rising food prices and unemployment; in PUK-dominated areas, security forces 6 Aug raided houses of political activists and New Generation Movement headquarters, reportedly arresting at least 40 party members. In KDP-dominated areas, security forces in days before 6 Aug arrested activists and journalists. Meanwhile, protests over electricity shortages 6 Aug erupted in southern Basra, Maysan, Wasit and northern Diyala governorates. Unidentified drone strike 1 Aug targeted Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) in Ranya district of Sulaymaniyah governorate. Turkish defence ministry 27 Aug said it killed nine PKK militants in north. Low-scale Islamic State (ISIS) attacks continued; notably, suspected ISIS attack 2 Aug killed five soldiers in Diyala governorate.

Saudi Arabia

Govt welcomed truce extension in Yemen. Riyadh 3 Aug welcomed truce extension in Yemen, saying deal “primarily aims to reach a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire” (see Yemen). Terrorism suspect wanted in connection with 2015 bombing of Mosque in Abha city 10 Aug detonated explosive belt in Jeddah city as security forces attempted to arrest him, killing himself and injuring four. U.S. State Dept 2 Aug approved potential sale of Patriot missiles in $3bn arms deal. Saudi and U.S. 9 Aug announced joint military drills “Native Fury 22” in Yanbu and al-Kharj governorates for eighth time beginning mid-month. In effort to quash domestic dissent, court 15 Aug sentenced women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab to 34 years in prison for tweets critical of govt; U.S. 22 Aug raised “significant concerns” over sentencing. Iranian foreign ministry 5 Aug issued public statement demanding release of Iranian national detained by Saudi Arabia during hajj pilgrimage.

Yemen

Warring parties agreed two-month truce extension, while deadly clashes in Shebwa among rival anti-Huthi factions widened cracks within Political Leadership Council. Govt and Huthis 2 Aug for second time agreed to extend UN-mediated April truce for another two months; UN’s failure to secure six-month extension may signal warring parties’ reluctance both to return to frontline fighting and to transform truce into permanent ceasefire. Huthis same day demanded disbursement of salaries to public sector employees in Huthi-controlled areas, which they said was precondition for further truce extension, and opening of ports and airports. Govt refused salary payments before Huthis reopen roads in Taiz city; Taiz issue remained deadlocked despite rounds of talks in recent months in Jordanian capital Amman. Govt 29 Aug claimed Huthi attack killed 10 soldiers near Taiz city in “dangerous escalation”. On diplomatic front, UN Military Advisor Antony Hayward 4 Aug travelled to Ibb and Taiz governorates and met Huthi and govt representatives to discuss reopening roads in Taiz; UN envoy’s representative in Aden 10 Aug visited Mokha city in Taiz governorate to discuss opening roads local authorities. Meanwhile, tensions escalated within Political Leadership Council established in April. In Shebwa governorate, United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed groups and Islah-aligned factions came to blows after Shebwa Governor and General People’s Congress Party member Muhammad bin al-Wazir al-Awlaki 6 Aug removed local commander of paramilitary Special Security Forces (SSF) and Islah party loyalist Abdi Rabbi Lakaab. Fighting between UAE-aligned Giants Brigades and Shebwa Defence Forces (SDF) on one side and SSF on other 7 Aug erupted in provincial capital Ataq; Giants Brigades and SDF 10 Aug reportedly took over city with dozens killed in fighting. Islah forces said Giants Brigades 20 Aug took over parts of oil field in Shebwa’s Ayaz. In neighbouring Abyan governorate, Political Leadership Council leader Rashid al-Alimi 22 Aug ordered Southern Transition Council (STC, backed by UAE and aligned with SDF) to cease its military operations, which STC next day described as “anti-terror” operation. Earlier, Al-Alimi 1 Aug appointed STC leader as governor of Socotra island and General People’s Congress official with purported STC ties as governor of Hadramawt.

July 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

U.S. and Iran made no progress to resolve remaining issues necessary to revive 2015 nuclear deal, while Tehran continued to expand its nuclear activities. Prospects for reviving 2015 nuclear accord appeared moribund as neither Washington nor Tehran appeared willing or able during month to overcome remaining hurdles, which include International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) safeguards probe, scope of sanctions relief and U.S. guarantees to remain committed to deal; lack of progress underscores possibility that deal may now be unsalvageable. EU deal coordinator 26 July asserted “space for additional significant compromises has been exhausted”, urging U.S. and Iran to accept proposed text. Meanwhile, IAEA 9 July confirmed that Iran had brought online cascade of IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow facility enriching up to 20%. Senior adviser to Supreme Leader 16 July said “Iran has the capability to build [a] nuclear bomb but it has [taken] no decision”. During U.S. President Biden’s visit to Jerusalem (see Israel-Palestine), he and Israeli PM Yair Lapid voiced shared concern over Iran’s nuclear advancements; their 14 July joint declaration underscored U.S. “commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon”, but while Biden maintained that “diplomacy is the best way to achieve this outcome”, Lapid posited that “the only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table”. U.S. 11 July reported Iran arranging “to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs”. Iran 19 July hosted presidents of Russia and Tü-rkiye; coinciding with meeting was announcement of memorandum of understanding between Russian Gazprom and National Iranian Oil Company on developing oil and gas infrastructure. U.S. Treasury Dept 6 July blacklisted ten entities and individuals involved in Iran’s petroleum and petrochemical trade with East Asia; U.S. State Dept simultaneously sanctioned seven entities and vessels linked to Iran’s oil export. Iran’s foreign ministry 16 July blacklisted 61 U.S. officials and lawmakers, past and current, citing their support for Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), dissident group seeking regime change. Iran 23 July announced arrest of what it claimed was Mossad-linked group allegedly intending to sabotage “sensitive” centre in Isfahan city.

Iraq

Amid stalled govt formation, tensions between rival Shiite factions escalated as Muqtada al-Sadr’s supporters stormed parliament in capital Baghdad; alleged Turkish attack killed nine tourists in Kurdistan. Shiite Coordination Framework failed to form two-thirds bloc in parliament needed to elect new president following Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s political withdrawal in June. In audio leaked 13 July, former PM and one of framework’s leaders Nuri al-Maliki said he was arming select groups in south in preparation for civil war against al-Sadr, whom he accused of plotting state takeover; Maliki 17 July denounced allegations as false, while Sadr next day called on Maliki to exit political process. In show of strength for Sadr, tens of thousands of supporters 15 July gathered in capital Baghdad, answering Sadr’s call to mass prayer; supporters 27, 30 July stormed Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and parliament, where clashes between protesters and security forces injured 125. Rival Shiite Coordination Framework called for counter-protests on 1 Aug, raising prospect of violence between camps. Meanwhile, Türkiye continued airstrikes against Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates; most notably, alleged Turkish artillery fire 20 July killed nine civilians and injured 23 in tourist resort in Barakh, Zakho district, Duhok province, Kurdistan autonomous region; Ankara denied responsibility for attack, blaming PKK, while Iraqi and Kurdish regional authorities blamed Türkiye. In capital Baghdad, dozens same day protested attacks in front of Turkish embassy and police next day clashed with around 500 protesters. National Security Council 20 July called on Türkiye to withdraw from Iraqi territory. Beyond Kurdistan region, alleged Turkish drone 17 July struck vehicle in Mosul, Ninewa province, killing five and injuring two. Alleged Islamic State (ISIS) attack 3 July killed two Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) members and injured five in Sherwin area of Diyala province. In deadliest attack since Jan, ISIS militants 20 July killed six police officers and injured seven in al-Jilam region, Salahaddin province. Tensions between federal and Kurdistan regional govts deepened over oil production and export from Kurdistan; commercial court in Baghdad 4 July ruled contracts of four foreign oil companies operating in Kurdistan were void.

Saudi Arabia

U.S. President Biden attended multilateral summit in Jeddah, while govt announced minor confidence-building measures with Israel. U.S. President Biden 15-16 July visited Saudi Arabia to attend bilateral U.S.-Saudi meeting and Gulf Cooperation Council+3 (Iraq, Egypt and Jordan) summit in Jeddah city; Biden 15 July met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In small confidence-building steps, Saudi Arabia 15 July opened airspace to all air carriers, including flights to and from Israel; U.S. same day announced deal to remove multinational peacekeeping mission from disputed Red Sea island Tiran by end of year, indicating Saudi recognition of Israel’s maritime access to Red Sea.

Yemen

Amid deadlocked talks to reopen roads to Taiz city, international actors scrambled to extend UN-mediated truce ahead of August expiry; failure to extend could see return to front-line and cross-border fighting. Ahead of 2 Aug expiry of UN-mediated truce between warring parties, international efforts to secure six-month extension intensified. Huthi Supreme Presidential Council member Mohammed al-Huthi 17 July called UN-mediated truce “shocking and disappointing experience”, suggesting Huthis may not agree to further truce extension; failure to extend could see conflict parties return to front-line fighting and cross-border attacks between Huthis and Saudi Arabia. Talks over reopening roads to Taiz, key pillar of truce agreement, remained stalled, further eroding hope of extension. Parties opted for unilateral announcements that did not translate into action on ground: Huthis 6 July announced unilaterally opening 50th/60th road, north west of Taiz city; Presidential Leadership Council member Tareq Saleh next day ordered reopening of road between Mokha city and Taiz areas under Huthi control, while Southern Transitional Council leader Ayderous al-Zubaidi announced reopening of road in al-Dhale governorate. UN special envoy’s office 21 July said Huthis rejected latest UN proposal focused on opening four secondary routes in Taiz in first phase. At talks in Jordanian capital Amman, Huthi and govt military committee representatives 5 July agreed to create joint operation room to coordinate military efforts and to reduce inflammatory media rhetoric. On security front, explosion at arms depot 5 July killed at least six and wounded 32 in Lawdar town, Abyan province. Suspected Huthi shelling 23 July killed at least one child and injured ten in Taiz city. Intense military redeployments by conflict parties on key front lines, including in Taiz and Marib, signalled preparation for potential resumption of violence. Anti-Huthi factions conducted recruitment campaigns; notably, Saudi-funded Happy Yemen Brigades commenced recruitment in Abyan province and deployed to presidential palace in Aden, seat of govt and leadership council; in parallel, Southern Transitional Council continued recruitment, mostly in Aden. UN Security Council 13 July extended mandate of UN mission (UNMHA) implementing Dec 2018 ceasefire in Hodeida ports. Presidential Leadership Council 29 July announced partial cabinet reshuffle.

June 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

Govt ramped up nuclear activity and scaled down external monitoring, while resumption of indirect U.S.-Iran talks offered faint glimmer of hope in salvaging 2015 deal and tensions with Israel rose. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi 6 June told agency’s board that Iran had failed to provide adequate explanations regarding traces of uranium found at undeclared sites. Board by vote of 30 to two (Russia and China) 8 June passed resolution expressing “profound concern” over lack of progress and called on govt to address queries. Govt next day condemned censure, adopting measures to ramp up nuclear activity and restrict transparency: ahead of vote, govt began installing cascade of advanced IR-6 centrifuges at Natanz plant with plans for further two cascades, and took pair of IAEA cameras offline; govt 8 June began dismantling 27 IAEA cameras, which IAEA following day characterised as potential “fatal blow” to restore 2015 nuclear deal. Govt 14 June pointed to possible “external elements” that may be responsible for uranium traces at undeclared sites. In positive step, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 25 June announced EU would mediate resumed indirect U.S.-Iran negotiations in Qatar; talks late June ended according to U.S. with “no progress”. Meanwhile, shadow hostilities with Israel grew more visible. News 3 June surfaced of death of Ali Esmailzadeh, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) colonel who, Iranian media asserted, “died after falling from a terrace in his house”; two other individuals – engineer at military aerospace facility and geologist – died on 31 May and 2 June in suspected poisoning. In sign of rising tensions that underscore growing risks of escalation, Israeli PM Naftali Bennett 8 June said “we’ve created a new equation by going for the head [of the octopus]”, referring to shift away from only targeting Iran’s tentacles, meaning regional proxies. Israel 13 June issued travel alert for Israelis to avoid visiting Türkiye, citing alleged Iranian threats. U.S. 16 June sanctioned Iranian companies and individuals allegedly supporting sale of oil to China and East Asia. U.S. reported IRGC vessels 20 June approached U.S. navy ships in “unsafe and unprofessional” manner, second such incident since March.

Iraq

Largest parliamentary bloc resigned amid deadlocked govt formation, while Türkiye struck Shiite militias for first time and continued to target Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliates. Stalled govt formation efforts entered ninth month; in protest of deadlock, 73 lawmakers from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc 12 June resigned and Sadr 15 June announced he would withdraw from political process, raising prospect of Sadr encouraging street protests; parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi 12 June accepted resignations. Parliament 23 June held emergency session for replacement MPs to take their oath. Earlier in month, parliament 8 June approved emergency food security bill backed by Sadr, allocating $17bn for food, gas, electricity and public service salaries. Drones allegedly launched by Shiite paramilitary coalition Popular Mobilisation Forces’ (PMF) 30th battalion 2, 9 June targeted Türkiye’s Zilkan base in Bashiqa, Ninewa governorate; group has launched eight attacks on base this year. In response, reports suggested Türkiye 9 June launched indirect fire against 30th battalion, resulting in two casualties in Ninewa plains, in first Turkish assault to date on PMF group not aligned with PKK; tit-for-tat attacks between Türkiye and PMF could increase in disputed areas of Ninewa. Meanwhile, Türkiye continued operations targeting PKK in northern Iraq; notably, in Sinjar district of Ninewa, Türkiye 15 June allegedly conducted airstrikes against PKK-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) positions in Sinuni town, killing two and injuring seven. Turkish drone 17 June targeted vehicle in Kalar town in Sulaymaniyah governorate, killing four PKK militants. In Kurdistan, judicial council 4 June rejected federal supreme court’s Feb ruling that declared regional govt’s development of oil and gas fields outside federal supervision “unconstitutional”. IED-laden drone 8 June hit Pirmam road near U.S. consulate facility in regional capital Erbil, injuring three; security forces claimed Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah was responsible for attack, while Iranian media said strike targeted Israeli secret service. Low-level Islamic State (ISIS) attacks and counter-ISIS operations continued throughout month; notably, security forces 3 June announced killing four ISIS members in Wadi al-Qathf region in Anbar governorate.

Saudi Arabia

Warring parties extended truce in Yemen and U.S. President Biden announced visit to Jeddah port city in July. Saudi-led coalition and Huthis refrained from cross-border attacks after warring parties in Yemen 2 June renewed April truce for two more months (see Yemen). News 13 June surfaced that Oman facilitated talks in May on border security between govt and Huthis. U.S. White House 14 June confirmed U.S. President Biden will visit Saudi Arabia in July as part of first Middle East trip of his presidency; Biden is expected to meet King Salman and, informally, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In sign of warming ties with Türkiye, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 22 June visited Turkish capital Ankara to meet President Erdoğan, in first visit to country since killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Iranian foreign ministry 27 June said Riyadh wanted to resume talks with Iran; fifth round of talks were held in April. After months of resisting U.S. and European pressure to increase oil production, OPEC+ 2 June announced it would raise output by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August 2022.

Yemen

Conflict parties extended April truce for two months, while negotiations over access to Taiz city remained central sticking point and divisions surfaced within govt. Warring parties 2 June renewed UN-mediated April truce for two months; truce – which is longest in effect since start of war in 2015 – has halted entirely cross-border attacks between Saudi-led coalition and Huthis and significantly slowed ground fighting. Low-scale fighting, however, continued during month across front lines, while conflict parties reportedly continued redeployment of military reinforcements and use of drones was reported in Marib, Hajjah, Saada, Hodeida, Taiz and al-Dhale governorates. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 3 June said 19 civilians had been killed in first two months of truce. In effort to fulfil truce’s third confidence-building measure, govt and Huthis 5 June began second round of negotiations in Jordanian capital Amman over reopening road access to Taiz city; UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg’s office 6 June presented proposal for phased reopening of roads. Huthis 24 June rejected UN proposal. After Huthis lifted ban on Grundberg’s entry to capital Sanaa, envoy 8 June visited city to meet Huthi Supreme Political Council President Mahdi al-Mashat and other Huthi officials, urging them to accept UN proposal. Separately, govt, Huthi and Saudi-led coalition representatives 6 June agreed to set up joint operation room to facilitate ceasefire. News 13 June surfaced that Oman facilitated talks in May on border security between Saudi Arabia and Huthis. Domestically, tensions within recently-formed Presidential Leadership Council surfaced, raising uncertainty over whether anti-Huthi bloc will remain united; notably, head of Southern Transitional Council (STC) Ayderous al-Zubaidi pushed for STC military wing, Security Belt Forces, to remain independent following govt’s decision in May to unify all anti-Huthi factions; STC reportedly has embarked on rampant recruitment across south. Meanwhile, security incidents in south rose, notably targeting STC-aligned individuals; IED 15 June killed journalist in Aden city. On economic front, food prices rose causing aid organisations to reduce food rations. With Yemeni riyal reaching 1,050 to U.S. dollar early month, state oil company in Aden 4 June increased fuel prices. Amid increasing power-cuts, as summer months approach, protests 5 June erupted in Mukalla city, Hadramawt governorate.

May 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

Efforts to restore 2015 nuclear deal remained stalemated as Tehran edged toward breakout capability; price hikes fuelled protests which left at least five killed. Revival of nuclear accord remained blocked over key remaining points of contention, namely 2019 U.S. designation of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as Foreign Terrorist Organization and economic guarantees on sanctions relief. EU facilitator of Vienna talks Enrique Mora sought to inject momentum into stalemated process by travelling to capital Tehran on 11 May – exactly two months after talks in Austrian capital Vienna were paused with technical text all but ready. Iranian and U.S. officials, however, still appeared to put onus on other; U.S. Biden administration 13 May maintained “Iran needs to decide whether it insists on extraneous conditions” or finalises agreement. Senior U.S. official 25 May described deal’s prospects “tenuous at best”; Treasury Dept same day sanctioned “international oil smuggling and money laundering network” linked to IRGC. Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi 10 May reported Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 60% stood at 42kg, up from 33.2kg tallied in IAEA’s 3 March quarterly report; Grossi also addressed agency’s ongoing safeguards probe into undeclared sites, asserting “Iran has not been forthcoming” with necessary information. President Raisi 9 May unveiled major economic reforms redirecting state subsidies from importers of basic staples, following abrupt cut on flour subsidies in late April that resulted in fivefold price increase; govt 12 May announced hikes on items including dairy products and chicken. Protests over costs erupted in Khuzestan and other provinces; as of 18 May, human rights groups had tallied five deaths, as security forces clamped down on demonstrators, with dozens detained. Police also clashed with protesters over govt handling of 23 May Abadan building collapse that killed at least 29. Unidentified assailants 22 May shot dead colonel of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force in capital Tehran. Incident at Parchin military facility 26 May caused one fatality; media reports blamed drone attack. Iran 27 May seized two Greek-flagged vessels in Gulf, possibly in retaliation for earlier U.S. confiscation of Iranian crude aboard tanker detained in April.

Iraq

Govt formation efforts remained stalled, army clashed with Sinjar Resistance Units in Sinjar, and Turkish forces launched drone strikes in northern Iraq. Govt formation remained deadlocked. Shiite cleric and leader of largest bloc in Oct 2021 parliamentary elections Muqtada al-Sadr faced setback when Federal Supreme Court 15 May banned govt from appointing senior positions, proposing draft laws and contacting new loans, ending Sadr’s plans to govern without fully authorised govt; Sadr same day announced intention to go into opposition, allowing second largest bloc, Shia Coordination Framework (SCF), to form govt. Meanwhile, SCF sought to intimidate Sunni MPs through threats of violence and court rulings; notably, after SCF petitioned Supreme Court, court 16 May revoked parliamentary status of Sunni lawmaker Mishan al-Jubouri on corruption charges. In Sinjar district, Nineveh province, clashes 1-2 May erupted between army and Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ), notably in Dukuri village, following military operation to clear YBŞ forces from area; clashes killed at least three and displaced around 3,000. Joint Operations Command 3 May confirmed clashes ended; tribal leaders and Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force mediated ceasefire. YBŞ has come under pressure from Turkish air campaign against PKK in Kurdistan and restriction of cross-border movement into Syria due to govt construction of wall along Syrian border. Suspected Turkish drone 21 May reportedly targeted vehicle near Chamchamal town in Sulaymaniyah province, killing five, including at least two alleged PKK members; another drone same day hit vehicle in Makhmour refugee camp in Nineveh province, reportedly killing two. Drone attack claimed by Ahrar Sinjar militia 21 May reportedly targeted Zilkan military base hosting Turkish troops in Bashiqa, Nineveh province, killing one. In Kurdistan region, six missiles reportedly launched from Bartella town in Nineveh province 1 May hit oil refinery in regional capital Erbil. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps 11 May reportedly targeted Erbil with artillery fire. Iraqi Security Media Cell 24 May announced it shot down drone approaching airbase near airport of capital Baghdad that hosts Iraqi and U.S. forces. Low-level Islamic State (ISIS) attacks continued throughout month; notably, two ISIS attacks in Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces 23 May reportedly killed 12.

Saudi Arabia

Coalition and Huthis refrained from cross-border attacks as April truce largely held. Cross-border Huthi attacks and coalition airstrikes remained halted after April truce (see Yemen). Vice Minister of Defence Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud 17 May met U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during which latter reaffirmed U.S. commitment to help Riyadh defend its territory. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 30 May held phone call with Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to discuss efforts to prolong truce in Yemen. Despite pressure from U.S. and Europe to increase oil production, OPEC+ 5 May decided to maintain planned production levels. Financial Times 22 May quoted Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, signalling support for Russia as member of OPEC+. Meanwhile, following fifth round of talks in April after seven-month hiatus, Iranian FM 17 May dismissed Iranian lawmakers’ statement that he would soon meet Saudi counterpart saying “no new developments” had occurred since April talks, while FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud 24 May said “some progress but not enough” had been made in talks with Iran.

Yemen

April truce largely held as UN scrambled to extend deal ahead of June expiration to avoid potential return to hostilities; Sanaa airport opened for first commercial flight in six years. Hostilities remained largely paused between govt and Huthis, notwithstanding slight increase in reported violations on ground, notably in Jabal Balaq mountains in Marib governorate, Taiz and Hajjah governorates. Huthis 23 May downed alleged Saudi-led coalition spy drone, killing three and injuring three in capital Sanaa. In positive development, first commercial flight in six years 16 May left Sanaa international airport after it had been temporarily postponed in April; reopening of airport was part of UN-brokered truce along with ending restrictions on fuel shipments into Hodeida port and lifting Huthi siege on Taiz city. Regarding latter, Huthis 17 May announced new demands, including halting fighting in Taiz governorate and removing military equipment from main roads; first round of talks between Huthis and govt to reopen Taiz roads 29 May ended with no tangible results. On diplomatic front, as expiration of truce on 2 June approached, UN envoy Hans Grundberg worked to secure extension. Grundberg 12 May spoke with head of Presidential Council Rashad al-Alimi, PM Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and VP of Council Tareq Saleh about truce. Yemeni FM Ahmed Awak bin Mubarak 17 May met U.S Sec State Anthony Blinken in U.S. capital Washington and said govt was “very hopeful to extend” truce. Head of Huthi Supreme Political Council 22 May said Huthis “are not against” extending truce. Grundberg 30 May returned to Aden city and met with Rashad al-Alimi to discuss reopening Taiz roads, and 31 May met with Huthi’s chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul-Salam, where he discussed renewing truce and reopening roads in Taiz governorate. In gesture to support truce, Saudi-led coalition 6 May returned over 100 prisoners to Yemen. Clashes between suspected al-Qaeda militants and Southern Transitional Council-aligned militia Security Belt 6 May reportedly killed dozen in Dhale governorate. Saudi Arabia 16 May agreed to transfer $174mn deposit to Yemeni central bank. Yemeni riyal was volatile after relative stability during Ramadan: 8 May deteriorated to 1040 riyal to U.S. dollar before 18 May appreciating to 980.

April 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

Talks between U.S., Iran and other world powers to revive 2015 nuclear accord reached one-year mark without breakthrough, while Iran-Saudi Arabia dialogue resumed for first time since Sept 2021. Nuclear talks remained at impasse despite technical elements of framework bringing U.S. and Iran back into compliance with deal all but agreed; as 6 April marked one year since start of talks in Austrian capital Vienna, impasse remained focused on bilateral political issue between Washington and Tehran, namely whether and under what conditions U.S. Biden administration will remove 2019 designation by Trump administration of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as Foreign Terrorist Organisation. U.S. State Dept 26 April indicated that EU coordinator “continues to convey messages back and forth”. Iranian atomic agency chief 6 April confirmed that, in line with timetable agreed with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month, Tehran had provided IAEA with documentation related to agency’s safeguards probe into undeclared nuclear activity; he also indicated “probably the agency’s representatives will travel to Iran for further talks”. Iran 4 April transferred centrifuge part production from TESA Karaj to Natanz facility; IAEA 14 April informed member states that it had put its cameras in place at workshop (though without access to footage) and Iran had commenced activity there. Govt 25 April confirmed fifth round of Iraq-hosted talks with Saudi Arabia, described as “positive”. U.S. 8 April tallied total number of Iran-related sanction designations under Biden administration at 107, of which 86 “have specifically targeted the IRGC-related persons as well as affiliates”. World Bank 14 April issued economic update on Iran, forecasting GDP growth in 2022/2023 at 3.7%, down from 4.1% in 2021/2022, with inflation projected at 37.6%.

Iraq

Deadlocked govt formation led to unprecedented constitutional impasse, Turkey launched new operation against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and Islamic State (ISIS) stepped up attacks during Ramadan. Govt formation remained stalled after last month’s failed attempts to achieve two-thirds quorum in parliament, leaving country in unprecedented situation that upends constitutional timeline for parliament to appoint president within 30 days of speaker’s election (completed in mid-Jan); constitution requires president to appoint PM. Following Shiite cleric and leader of bloc that won largest share of seats in Oct 2021 parliamentary election Muqtada al-Sadr’s announcement late March that he would give rivals in Shia Coordination Framework 40 days to negotiate with his allies Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Sunni Sovereignty Alliance to form govt, KDP and Sovereignty Alliance 1 April issued statement reaffirming commitment to Tripartite Alliance with Sadr, now rebranded “Saving the homeland” bloc. Hundreds of demonstrators 15 April protested political deadlock in capital Baghdad. Turkish military 17-18 April launched new operation against PKK in northern Iraq dubbed “Claw-Lock”; fighter jets targeted infrastructure and bases used by PKK militants in Metina, Zab and Avashin-Basyan regions; Turkish Defence Ministry next day announced killing at least 19 militants. President Salih 19 April called attack threat to Iraq’s national security and Foreign Ministry 20 April summoned Turkey’s envoy. As part of yearly uptick in attacks during Ramadan, ISIS conducted over dozen attacks against security forces in central regions. Notably, Security Media Cell 4 April announced that alleged ISIS suicide bomber injured at least four soldiers in Nwegeit mountains, Ninewa province, while Iraqi troops killed three militants. Counter-ISIS operations continued throughout month. In Ninewa governorate, suspected Hashd al-Shaabi-linked militant groups 3-4 April launched rockets on Turkey’s Zilkan military base in Bashiqa town; three missiles launched from Hamdaniya district in Ninewa 6 April targeted oil refinery in Khabat district, Erbil governorate. U.S.-led international coalition 8 April announced downing drone targeting Ain al-Assad airbase in Anbar governorate. Unknown attackers 15 April launched explosives-laden drone at Hashd al-Shaabi base in Tal Afar district, which injured one commander, possibly in retaliation for 6 April attack.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi-led coalition and Huthis in Yemen halted cross-border attacks, while Riyadh and Iran resumed talks in Iraq. Huthis halted cross-border attacks into kingdom and Saudi-led coalition stopped airstrikes following 1 April truce between warring parties in Yemen (see Yemen). Iranian Foreign Ministry 4 April reportedly said Iran was ready to resume talks with Saudi Arabia after Iran suspended them in March; fifth round of talks was held 21 April in Iraqi capital Baghdad, making it first time dialogue took place since Sept 2021. Iraqi PM al-Khadimi in interview 30 April expressed optimism for Saudi-Iran ties, saying: “We are convinced that reconciliation is near”. Saudi Arabia 7 April announced it would send ambassador back to Lebanon after Oct 2021 diplomatic spat (see Lebanon). Turkey 8 April announced it would move trial for 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, effectively ending probe; Turkish President Erdoğan 28 April visited Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Yemen

In major breakthrough, fighting slowed and cross-border attacks halted after warring parties agreed two-month truce, while President Hadi handed over power to new presidential council. In first coordinated cessation of hostilities since 2016, UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 1 April announced two-month nationwide truce starting next day between Hadi govt and Huthis, which includes cessation of military operations and cross-border attacks, opening of Sanaa airport for biweekly commercial flights to Jordan and Egypt, permission for around 18 fuel ships to enter Huthi-controlled Hodeida port, and negotiations over opening road access to besieged Taiz city. Fighting slowed significantly following announcement of truce: Saudi-led coalition airstrikes and Huthi cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia halted, while fighting around Marib city persisted at low level. Grundberg 6 April expressed concern over “some hostile military activities”, especially around Marib, while absence of mechanism to monitor violations leaves truce fragile; collapse of deal could see swift return to front-line fighting and cross-border attacks. In first visit since taking office, Grundberg 11 April travelled to capital Sanaa and met senior Huthi officials. First commercial flight from Sanaa International Airport in six years was postponed 24 April after disputes over passports being used by travellers. Amid Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-led consultations in Saudi capital Riyadh and reportedly under pressure from Saudi Arabia, President Hadi 7 April announced removal of VP Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and transferred executive authority to new Presidential Leadership Council led by veteran politician and security official Rashad al-Alimi; Council includes diverse anti-Huthi factions and equal number of northern and southern leaders. Al-Alimi 8 April promised to “end the war and achieve peace”. Al-Alimi and other council members arrived in southern Aden city from Saudi Arabia and were sworn in 19 April with UN envoy and EU and GCC ambassadors in attendance. Following formation of presidential council, Saudi Arabia 7 April announced $3bn financial aid to govt, $1bn of which United Arab Emirates will supply, and $300mn for UN aid response; subsequently, Yemeni riyal nearly doubled in value from around 1,000 to about 650 YR to dollar, but subsequently declined.

March 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

Tensions with Israel peaked as both sides increasingly threatened to attack the other, fuelling regional security concerns; talks between Iran, U.S. and other world powers paused following 11th-hour Russian demands. Following alleged Israeli attack on drone facility in Iran’s Kermanshah province last month, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in rare announcement 8 March revealed death of two colonels in Israeli airstrike near Syrian capital Damascus previous day. In retaliation, IRGC 13 March fired dozen ballistic missiles at Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, targeting Israeli “strategic centre” (see Iraq). Reports 13 March surfaced that authorities uncovered alleged Israel spy network in north-western Iran; IRGC next day announced arrest of members of alleged Israeli intelligence-linked group plotting sabotage acts at Fordow nuclear facility. Israel 14 March announced it suffered “broad cyber attack” on govt sites. Israeli FM 28 March asserted that Negev Summit attended by counterparts from U.S., Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco and United Arab Emirates “intimidates and deters our common enemies – first and foremost Iran and its proxies”. Govt-affiliated media 13 March reported Tehran had “unilaterally suspended” talks with Saudi officials (see Saudi Arabia). Tehran and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 5 March resolved longstanding dispute over IAEA investigation into possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at four sites, jointly announcing roadmap addressing safeguards-related concerns. However, deep rift between West and Russia over latter’s invasion of Ukraine in Feb threw up hurdle in talks. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 5 March stated Moscow expected that Western sanctions “will by no means affect our right to free and full-fledged trading, economic, investment, military and technical cooperation with Iran” if deal revived; EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 11 March announced pause in talks “due to external factors”. Lavrov 15 March indicated much less maximalist demand related to civil nuclear cooperation projects that U.S. same day assured were part and parcel of deal. In positive move, UK govt 16 March announced UK nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori detained in Iran since 2016 and 2017, respectively, were released; third UK national Morad Tahbaz arrested in 2018 was briefly furloughed but since returned to jail.

Iraq

Iran launched missiles at alleged Israeli target in Erbil, govt formation remained deadlocked, and Islamic State (ISIS) appointed new leader. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) 13 March fired 12 ballistic missiles at alleged Israeli “strategic center” in area near U.S. consulate in Kurdistan’s regional capital Erbil; attack reportedly conducted in response to Israeli drone strike that killed two IRGC officers in Syria 7 March (see Syria) and Israeli attack on drone facility in Iran’s Kermanshah province in Feb; attack was launched from Iranian soil and without consultation of local Iranian allies who faced backlash for Iran’s violation of Iraqi sovereignty. On political front, govt formation remained deadlocked. Following failure to elect president last month, parliament 5 March voted to reopen nomination period for presidential candidates; Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) subsequently officially nominated Reber Ahmed as candidate. Parliament speaker 15 March announced election of president would take place on 26 March, however quorum was not obtained with session postponed again to 30 March; head of al-Fateh bloc Abbas al-Zamili next day reportedly said Shiite Coordination Framework would not attend session without agreement on govt formation with Tripartite Alliance that includes Sadrists, Sunni Sovereignty Alliance and KDP. Parliament 30 March failed to elect president due to lack of quorum. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr 10 March held phone calls with top officials, including former PM and rival Nouri al-Maliki, who al-Sadr had long refused to include in govt-formation; indicated consensus govt is likely to prevail notwithstanding division between Sadrists and Framework leaders that could lead to months of wrangling. Hundreds of protesters supporting Iran-aligned groups 27 March reportedly attacked KDP’s office in capital Baghdad. Following death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Quraishi in Syria in Feb, ISIS 10 March appointed new leader (see Syria). Meanwhile, low-scale ISIS attacks and anti-terrorism operations continued throughout month. At least four rockets attributed by military to “criminal terrorist gangs” 17 March targeted Balad airbase in Salah al-Din province. Protests erupted 9 March in south over rising food prices; notably, over 500 protesters gathered in Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar governorate.

Saudi Arabia

Huthis launched cross-border attacks targeting oil infrastructure, while Iran suspended talks with Riyadh following mass execution in kingdom. State media throughout month reported alleged Huthi’s cross-border attacks; notably, drone 10 March struck Saudi Aramco refinery in capital Riyadh; Huthis next day claimed attack and said they also targeted southern Jizan and Abha cities. Huthis 19-20 March launched barrage of drone and missile attacks, including on energy and water desalination facilities in Al-Shaqeeq city, Jizan province, Yanbu city, Al Madinah province, Dhahran al-Janub governorate and Khamis Mushait city in ‘Asir province, and Jeddah city in Mecca province. In response to Huthi-launched drone strikes hitting Kingdom’s Aramco facilities in Riyadh and Jeddah among other oil and gas sites, Saudi Arabia 26 March launched string of retaliatory attacks targeting Sanaa and Hodeida cities (see Yemen). In largest mass execution in decades, kingdom 12 March executed 81 people – half of whom were Shias – on number of charges including murder and terrorism; Iran next day condemned executions as “violation of basic human rights principles and international law”. Iraqi Foreign Ministry 12 March announced fifth round of Iran-Saudi Arabia talks due to be hosted in Iraqi capital Baghdad following week; however, Iran next day suspended talks without specifying reasons. Amid global surge in oil prices, Saudi Arabia mid-March refused to break commitment to OPEC+ deal with countries, including Russia, despite U.S. and UK pressure aimed at persuading Riyadh to increase oil production.

Yemen

Fighting slowed on front lines, UN envoy initiated political talks, and rising fuel prices and food shortages exacerbated humanitarian crisis. Fighting remained largely stalemated throughout month with clashes concentrated in Hajjah and Marib governorates. In Hajjah, Huthis retook areas in Harad city they lost in Feb. In Marib, fighting took place in Harib district near al-Balaq mountains encircling Marib city. Elsewhere, govt-aligned forces launched attacks on Huthis in Mukayras district, al-Bayda governorate, and Lawdar district, Abyan governorate; relative calm on front lines could signal Huthis re-grouping for counteroffensive around Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia that provoked retaliatory airstrikes (see Saudi Arabia). On diplomatic front, UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 7 March initiated consultations with political parties (excluding Huthis) in Jordanian capital Amman; no tangible results. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 15 March proposed multiparty talks in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh with Huthis, who next day said they would welcome talks only in neutral country; GCC states elected instead to hold political consultations in Riyadh with anti-Huthi parties, in apparent effort at forming united front, and potentially restructuring govt. Grundberg 19 March met Huthi chief negotiator to discuss possible truce during Ramadan. Head of Huthi-led Supreme Political Council 26 March proposed initiative via mediators to halt Huthi cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and ceasefire for three days in exchange for coalition reopening Sanaa International airport, and bring Hodeida port back up to full capacity; Saudi-led coalition 29 March announced it would halt military operations from next day. Russian invasion of Ukraine compounded already dire humanitarian situation. With 30%-40% of country’s wheat imported from Ukraine and Russia, outbreak of war (see Ukraine) led to skyrocketing prices as country has four months of reserves. Rising costs and depreciating currency raise risk of social unrest, not least during Ramadan when average household consumption rises; Integrated Food Security Phase Classification 14 March predicted 60% of population likely to experience acute food insecurity June-Dec 2022. High-level donor conference 16 March only raised $1.3bn of estimated $4.3bn budget, forcing UN to scale down humanitarian programs in 2022.

February 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

Marathon negotiations involving Iran, U.S. and other world powers reached inflection point that will determine whether 2015 nuclear deal is revived or collapses. Eighth round of talks in Austrian capital Vienna 8 Feb resumed after short hiatus beginning late Jan. Iran’s lead negotiator 16 Feb asserted that “we are closer than ever” to deal, but remarks from FM Hossein Amirabollahian published same day underscored that closer does not necessarily mean close; Iran continued emphasising U.S. guarantees against future withdrawal from nuclear deal and insistence on “total lifting” of Trump-era sanctions designations, both of which have been consistent Iranian terms since negotiations began and neither of which is likely to be attainable. Iran’s lead negotiator 23 Feb left Vienna for consultations in Tehran that could determine whether talks yield breakthrough or breakdown; while gaps between parties have narrowed, remaining areas of disagreement are significant enough to scupper breakthrough. Meanwhile, U.S. 4 Feb issued sanctions waivers, which Trump administration had issued after U.S. 2018 withdrawal from deal but revoked in 2020, on 2015 nuclear deal-linked nuclear cooperation project; U.S. asserted that decision was “designed to facilitate discussions” in Vienna and “serve U.S. non-proliferation and nuclear safety interests”; E3 (France, Germany and UK) next day welcomed announcement, while Iranian FM posited that “what happens on paper is good, but not enough”. South Korean officials 15-16 Feb held consultations with Iranian counterparts regarding Iran’s frozen assets, with Seoul noting that “sanctions-related issues, including the transfer of frozen funds, would be resolved when a deal is reached” in Vienna. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps 9 Feb revealed new solid fuel-powered ballistic missile, with purported range of 1,450km; military chief of staff asserted that missile development would proceed “quantitively and qualitatively”.

Iraq

Parliament failed to elect new president, stalling govt formation and leading country into uncharted constitutional waters, while Turkey launched new military campaign in northern Iraq. Govt formation came to unprecedented standstill after parliament 7 Feb failed to reach necessary two-thirds quorum to elect new president within constitutional deadline. Unsure of obtaining two-thirds of votes for their Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) presidential candidate Hoshyar Zebari, tripartite alliance – comprising Sunni parties, KDP and Shiite Sadrist movement and led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – boycotted session. Supreme Court 13 Feb invalidated Zebari’s candidacy over corruption charges. Fearing Sadr could form govt excluding rival Shiite Coordination Framework, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander 8 Feb visited Iraq to meet Sadr who maintained intention to form majority govt. Lack of precedent for deadlock fuelled uncertainty, which may eventually force new elections. In move likely to raise tensions between Baghdad and Erbil and possibly cause rift within tripartite alliance, Supreme Court 15 Feb ruled Kurdistan regional govt’s law regulating region’s independent oil industry unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Turkey early Feb launched new military campaign Operation Winter Eagle against Kurdish militants, constituting most significant escalation in airstrikes since Aug 2021. Turkish air force 1 Feb conducted over 20 airstrikes in Sinjar district, Nineveh governorate, and Makhmur district, Erbil governorate, killing ten Yazidi Resistance Units (YBS) and Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) members. In following days, YBS protested in Sinjar, raising tensions with military who banned protests. Previously unknown Ahrar Sinjar group – likely front for pro-Iran Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq – claimed 2 Feb rocket attack on Turkish military base in Sinjar. Group deemed to be front for pro-Iran faction Alwiat al-Wa’ad al-Haqq claimed responsibility for three drones target-ing United Arab Emirates on 2 Feb. In Maysan governorate, PM Al-Kadhimi 7 Feb established new operations command amid insecurity; notably, unidentified gunmen 9 Feb assassinated member of Sadrist militia Saraya al-Salam in Amara city, latest in series of killings involving Sadrists and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, raising fears of more clashes between groups. Anti-Islamic State operations continued throughout month.

Saudi Arabia

Cross-border Huthi attacks injured dozens, while Tehran and Riyadh reaffirmed intention to hold fifth round of direct negotiations. Saudi air defence 10 Feb intercepted explosive-laden Huthi drone targeting Abha airport in ‘Asir province, injuring at least 12 people. Saudi-led coalition 21 Feb destroyed drone allegedly fired from Yemeni capital Sanaa targeting King Abdallah airport in southern Jizan city; shrapnel injured 16 civilians. In response, Saudi-led coalition throughout month carried out airstrikes in Yemen (see Yemen). Meanwhile, Iranian President Raisi 5 Feb reportedly said Tehran was ready for negotiations with Saudi Arabia if Riyadh was willing to maintain “atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect”; FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 19 Feb said kingdom was planning fifth round of direct talks with Iran. During phone call to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, U.S. President Biden 9 Feb reaffirmed “commitment to support” kingdom against Huthi attacks.

Yemen

Anti-Huthi forces maintained multi-front offensive to regain lost territories as fighting in Marib stalemated, while tensions in south and economic hardship across country persisted. Govt-affiliated forces throughout month launched multi-front offensive, restoring degree of military equilibrium after two years of Huthi gains, but suffered series of reversals on ground. Govt forces advanced on Haradh city, Hajjah governorate, and reportedly gained parts of al-Safra district, Saada governorate. In Taiz governorate, United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed National Resistance Forces advanced along Red Sea-Taiz city road between Jabal Habashi and Maqabana districts. However, Huthis launched counteroffensives in each area, claiming to have retaken most territory. In Marib governorate, fighting largely stalemated. Saudi-led coalition early month reportedly deployed newly-formed “Happy Yemen Brigades” near Marib. While UAE-backed Giants Brigades late Jan withdrew from Shebwa and southern Marib governorates, two brigades remained in northern Shebwa and Harib governorates where fighting continued. In southern Marib governorate, govt forces encircled Huthis from strategic al-Ain and Harib road. Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia throughout month (see Saudi Arabia). Saudi-led coalition responded with airstrikes; notably, strike 14 Feb hit telecommunications infrastructure in capital Sanaa. In Hadramawt governorate in south, tensions between govt and tribal Hiba movement rose as Hiba blocked oil exports, demanding greater share of oil revenues from Shihr port. Southern Transitional Council official 17 Feb called for “escalation” of protests demanding withdrawal of govt troops from governorate. Fuel shortages remained widespread, particularly in Huthi-controlled territories, with govt and Huthis accusing each other of blocking passage of oil. Yemeni riyal 15 Feb fell to 1,180 to U.S. dollar, further increasing pressure on fuel price. Internationally, U.S. govt – under pressure from UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel – 4 Feb held internal meeting about possible designation of Huthis as Foreign Terrorist Organisation; Treasury Dept 23 Feb sanctioned members of international network funding Huthis. UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 3 Feb met Huthi spokesperson in Oman’s capital Muscat; Huthis still refused Grundberg’s entry into Sanaa. In UN Security Council briefing, Grundberg 15 Feb announced new framework for inclusive process. UN Security Council 28 Feb imposed arms embargo on Huthis.

January 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

Negotiations aimed at restoring 2015 nuclear deal neared critical juncture, while regional tensions with U.S. continued. Eighth round of talks in Austrian capital Vienna that started on 27 Dec continued throughout month, with all participants noting some measure of progress although U.S. and European parties emphasised necessity of faster progress; negotiations 28 Jan paused for consultations with capitals and set to resume early Feb. Amid continued expansion of Iranian nuclear capabilities, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 13 Jan referred to “not months ahead, weeks ahead” before window for returning to mutual compliance with 2015 deal closes. Iran’s foreign ministry 17 Jan indicated that deliberations were centred around four draft texts, underscoring Tehran’s desire for deal that is “reliable and stable”. Senior South Korean diplomat early Jan visited Vienna “to explore ways to resolve the issue of frozen Iranian assets in Korea”; Seoul 23 Jan confirmed payment of outstanding Iranian UN dues using frozen funds. U.S. official 23 Jan said “very hard for us to imagine getting back into the nuclear deal” so long as four citizens remain imprisoned in Iran, as indirect talks on detainees take place. International Atomic Energy Agency 31 Jan announced Iranian notification on ceasing centrifuge parts production at Karaj facility and shifting that activity to Isfahan site. Meanwhile, around two-year anniversary of killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in U.S. drone strike, there was marked uptick in exchanges involving U.S. forces and Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria; notably, rocket fire and armed drone struck Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq (see Iraq and Syria). Foreign ministry 8 Jan added 51 U.S. nationals, including currently serving military commanders and members of Trump administration, to its sanctions list, citing their involvement in Soleimani’s killing; White House next day warned Iran of “severe consequences” if it should attack U.S. nationals.

Iraq

Parliament held first session since Oct election, Popular Mobilisation Forces stepped up attacks, and Islamic State carried out one of its deadliest attacks in months. Parliament 9 Jan held first session since Oct election, re-electing Mohammed al-Halbousi as parliament speaker, Sadrist movement’s Hakim al-Zamili as first deputy and Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) Shakhawan Abdullah as second deputy; session went ahead despite verbal altercations and suspected attempts at disruption in line with Shia coordination framework’s wishes; latter 10 Jan filed complaint at Supreme Court challenging parliament proceedings as unconstitutional but court 25 Jan rejected appeal to overturn selection of speaker. Following session, unclaimed hand grenade attacks 13 Jan targeted KDP headquarters, 14 Jan struck Sunni Taqaddum and Azm party offices in capital Baghdad in likely warning to Shia leader of largest bloc Muqtada al-Sadr not to exclude Shia parties in govt formation. Twin explosions 16 Jan targeted banks associated with Kurdish politicians in Baghdad, injuring two. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Ismael Qaani and Hizbollah representative Mohammed al-Kawtharani 16-17 Jan mediated between Shia parties in Baghdad, with some sources indicating Iran’s possible acceptance of non-Shia majority govt. Rockets 25 Jan struck near speaker’s residence in Karma district, Anbar province, injuring two civilians. In increase of attacks compared to last month, Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)-affiliated resistance factions early Jan conducted at least 22 attacks on domestic and foreign targets; notably, in commemoration of 2020 assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, PMF 3-6 Jan launched drone and rocket attacks on Green Zone and airport in Baghdad and Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar governorate; previously unknown group Qassem al-Jabarayn 5 Jan claimed Ain al-Asad attack. Also marking Soleimani’s killing, thousands 1 Jan rallied in Baghdad chanting anti-U.S. slogans. PMF-affiliated groups 6 Jan attacked Peshmerga forces near Altun Kopri in Kirkuk governorate. Rocket attack targeting U.S. embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone 13 Jan injured two. Six rockets 28 Jan hit Baghdad International Airport compound and landed near U.S. air base Camp Victory. ISIS attacks continued throughout month; most notably, suspected ISIS gunmen 21 Jan attacked army barracks in Azim district in Diyala governorate, killing 11 soldiers.

Saudi Arabia

Tit-for-tat cross-border attacks with Huthis continued, while Riyadh eased tensions with Qatar and Iran. Saudi-led coalition throughout month intercepted Huthi drones and ballistic missiles targeting southern kingdom including Najran city, Dhahran Al-Janoub governorate, Uhud Al-Masraha governorate, Khamis Mushait city, Taif city; notably, missile 23 Jan injured two foreign residents in Jazan. Coalition intensified air strikes on Huthi targets in Yemen (see Yemen). Saudi Arabia and Qatar 7 Jan halted dispute at World Trade Organization over Saudi Arabia-based television channel’s alleged theft of sports content broadcast by Qatari state-run channel. Three Iranian diplomats 17 Jan arrived in Saudi Arabia to reopen office at Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah port city for first time since 2016; Iranian FM spokesperson same day said Iran was ready to reopen embassy in Saudi Arabia depending on “practical efforts” by latter. Meanwhile, govt critic Princess Basmah bint Saud 6 Jan returned home to Jeddah after being imprisoned in state prison without charges since March 2019.

United Arab Emirates

Huthis in Yemen launched largest attack on country to date, killing three people. After United Arab Emirates (UAE)-aligned forces in Yemen seized territory in north-western Shebwa governorate (see Yemen), Huthis carried out attacks on UAE. Huthis 2 Jan seized Emirati vessel in Red Sea and 17 Jan claimed attack targeting industrial facility in Musaffah and extension of airport in capital Abu Dhabi, killing three and injuring six; Huthis 24 Jan targeted Dhafra air base hosting U.S. military in UAE. Attacks come after increasing visibility of Emirati role in Yemen as reports have indicated in recent weeks that UAE has stepped up air operations and support to anti-Huthi groups, despite previous 2019 UAE announcement of withdrawal from conflict. Authorities 31 Jan said they had intercepted missile fired by Huthis from Yemen. Attack came as Israeli President Herzog 30-31 Jan travelled to UAE in first ever visit by Israeli president and discussed security and bilateral relations with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Yemen

Battlefield hostilities escalated as anti-Huthi forces regained Shebwa governorate and Saudi-led coalition intensified bombing after Huthis launched deadly attacks on United Arab Emirates. United Arab Emirates (UAE)-aligned Giants Brigades early month recaptured al-Ain, Bayhan and Usaylan districts in north-western Shebwa governorate, al-Saadi junction connecting Marib and Shebwa governorates, and Harib district in southern Marib governorate; Giants Brigades later gained control of strategic road leading to al-Abdiya district and advanced toward Umm Rish camp in al-Juba district in Marib, although local and regional media late month reported that Giants’ military push was being halted; gains represented Huthis’ first visible territorial losses since their push toward Marib city in Jan 2020. In response to losses, Huthis carried out series of missile and drone attacks on UAE (see United Arab Emirates); Saudi-led coalition reacted by launching air strikes on capital Sanaa; notably, coalition 18 Jan carried out air raids on Sanaa killing at least 20; 21 Jan struck telecoms facility in Hodeida city killing three children and causing four-day nationwide internet outage. Attack 21 Jan targeting prison in Huthi-held Saada city reportedly killed at least 91 and injured over 200; coalition denied responsibility. U.S. President Biden 19 Jan said administration was considering re-designating Huthis as international terrorist organisation. Elsewhere, clashes continued without major shifts in front lines. In south, Taiz city witnessed increased levels of fighting, with govt forces making small advances around Jabal Habashi and Maqbana districts’ border. On political front, tensions between local authorities and tribal movements resurfaced in Hadramawt governorate as tribal conglomeration Hadramawt Inclusive Committee in Wadi Hadramawt area vied for establishment of locally-led military unit outside of ministry of defence chain of command as governor rejected idea. On economic front, currency volatility persisted as Yemeni riyal 30 Jan fell to 1,030 to U.S. dollar, following its appreciation last month, amid fuel shortages and price hikes, notably in Sanaa. Internationally, Iranian FM 10 Jan met Huthi top negotiator and Omani officials; UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 12 Jan briefed UN Security Council, notably highlighted military escalation and concern over militarisation of Hodeida port; 19 Jan met Saudi Vice Minister of Defense and Yemeni FM in Saudi capital Riyadh.

December 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

Nuclear talks continued in Austria without breakthrough, while Tehran and UN nuclear watchdog struck deal on surveillance at key nuclear site. Seventh round of talks, that began late Nov in Austrian capital Vienna, 3 Dec adjourned as European participants and U.S. asserted that Tehran’s opening bids substantially widened gaps previously narrowed during earlier rounds; E3 (UK, France and Germany) 3 Dec voiced “disappointment and concern” while U.S. 4 Dec accused Iran of walking back its positions. During talks, Iran 1 Dec announced deployment of cascade of IR-6 advanced centrifuges enriching to 20% at its Fordow facility. Negotiators 9 Dec reconvened as seventh round continued, concluding 17 Dec. EU representative Enrique Mora 17 Dec said: “We now have a text that with some minor exceptions is a common ground… But that does not mean by any means that we have an agreement on any text”, while Iran’s lead negotiator same day described “good progress” and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan assessed talks as “not going well”. Eighth round 27 Dec kicked off with Mora highlighting “sense of urgency in all delegation”. Meanwhile, following weeks of stalled progress, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 15 Dec announced agreement with Iran’s atomic energy organisation to replace its surveillance cameras at Karaj centrifuge production facility and carry out “other related technical activity” by late Dec, forestalling possibility of censure resolution by IAEA Board of Governors; other safe-guard concerns however remained unresolved. U.S. 7 Dec sanctioned 13 Iranian persons and entities for human rights abuses and 16 Dec announced action against entities for “diverting or attempting to divert U.S. items to Iran’s military programs”. Authorities 4 Dec claimed reports of explosion near Natanz nuclear facility due to missile drill. Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps 24 Dec concluded five-day drill by testing multiple ballistic missiles and drones. Iran 30 Dec launched three re-search devices into space that failed to reach orbit; operation drew criticism from Germany, France and U.S. who said launch was in breach of UN Security Council resolutions. Clashes 1 Dec erupted at border with Afghanistan, leaving multiple casualties on both sides (see Afghanistan).

Iraq

Islamic State (ISIS) attacks killed dozens, U.S.-led coalition forces formally ended combat mission, and deadlock over govt formation continued following disputed election results. Surge of ISIS attacks on Peshmerga forces along border between Kurdistan region and disputed territories continued early Dec; notably, ISIS 2 Dec killed ten Peshmerga and three civilians in at-tack on Khidir Jija village in Makhmur region; 5 Dec reportedly killed four Peshmer-ga and one civilian in Qara Salem village. ISIS same day took control of Luhaiban village before Iraqi security forces recaptured it next day. ISIS 6 Dec killed four Peshmerga in attack near oilfield between Kirkuk and Makhmur cities. In southern city Basra, rare motorcycle bomb 7 Dec killed four and injured 20; while attack remained unclaimed, Basra governor blamed ISIS. In Diyala governorate, ISIS attack killed three soldiers in Qara Tapa. Ahead of 31 Dec deadline for withdrawal of coalition troops, National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji 9 Dec announced end of Coalition Forces’ combat mission. Coalition next day announced start of new “advise, assist and enable mission” consisting of 2,500 U.S. troops; pro-Iran paramilitary groups subsequently condemned largely unchanged troop numbers. Two rockets 18 Dec hit Green Zone near U.S. embassy in capital Baghdad. Federal Supreme Court 27 Dec ratified final election results, after rejecting fraud allegations submitted early month by Fateh Alliance leader Hadi al-Ameri, who requested results be annulled. Meanwhile, Shiite parties continued negotiations over govt formation. In Sinjar district, Turkish airstrike targeting vehicle outside Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) headquarters 7 Dec killed local commander Marwan Badal in Khanasour village; protests against Turkish airstrikes 12 Dec set fire to Iraqi army vehicle in Sinuni town. Turkish defence ministry 9 Dec announced death of three soldiers in PKK attack in northern Iraq; Ankara launched retaliatory air attacks reportedly killing PKK-affiliated militants in northern Iraq throughout month. Syrian PKK-affiliated Revolutionary Youth Union members 15 Dec clashed with Iraqi border authorities at Fishkhabour-Semalka border crossing, demanding return of Syrian Kurdish fighters’ bodies killed in Turkish airstrike; clashes prompted closure of border point, sparking fears among humanitarian agencies about access to Syria.

Saudi Arabia

Tit-for-tat cross-border attacks between Huthis and Saudi-led coalition ran high. Saudi-led coalition throughout month intercepted increased number of Huthi drones and ballistic missiles; notably, 6 Dec caught ballistic missile over capital Riyadh; in response, coalition pledged to “strike with an iron fist” and 7 Dec bombed military targets in Yemeni capital Sanaa. Huthis 7 Dec claimed they fired 25 drones and several ballistic missiles across border, including at Saudi Aramco facilities in Jeddah city; 15 Dec announced firing ballistic missiles targeting King Khalid airbase in ‘Asir province and targets in Jizan province; coalition same day confirmed interception of two ballistic missiles targeting Abha city in ‘Asir province, which Saudi Press Agency said caused damage in Ahad Al-Masariyah indus-trial area in Jizan province. Coalition 19, 20, 23 Dec destroyed drones targeting King Abdullah airport in Jizan province, Abha International Airport and Khamis Mushait in ‘Asir province. Alleged Huthi projectile 24 Dec killed two and injured seven in Jizan city while another missile hit Najran city. Saudi-led coalition throughout month carried out near daily airstrikes on targets in Yemen, including on Yemeni capital Sanaa (see Yemen). Meanwhile, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 6 Dec began tour of Gulf states and 8 Dec met Qatari leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamed al-Thani in Qatari capital Doha in first visit since 2017-2021 blockade of Qatar.

Yemen

Govt forces regained some positions from Huthis in southern Hodeida amid ongoing fighting around Marib city, tit-for-tat violence at Saudi border escalated, and protests erupted in south. On Red Sea coast, govt-aligned Joint Resistance Forces reclaimed some areas in southern Hodeida province lost during Nov withdrawal, including most of Hays district and al-Udayn junction, temporarily cutting off Huthi supply lines from Taiz province. Joint Resistance Forces then focused operations on northern Maqbana axis in western Taiz, notably to gain economically strategic Saqim custom point. In Marib governorate, fighting remained focused around al-Balaq mountain range encircling Marib city. In blow to govt forces, clashes with Huthis 13 Dec reportedly killed senior govt military commander. Elsewhere, govt forces achieved minor gains in western Shebwa while fighting in al-Dhale and al-Bayda governorates slowed. Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia). Saudi-led coalition responded with airstrikes in Sanaa, Saada, Taiz, Marib and Hodeida governorates; notably, airstrike 3 Dec struck vehicle in Maqbana, Taiz province, killing five civilians and five Huthi fighters; coalition 20 Dec struck targets at Sanaa International Airport. Huthis 21-27 Dec halted humanitarian flights entering capital Sanaa. In south, protests over currency collapse and high food prices early Dec erupted in Aden, Hadramawt, Abyan and Taiz governorates; notably, hundreds 5 Dec protested in Taiz city calling for removal of Taiz governor and PM Abdulmalik Saeed. On political front, tribal members 6 Dec launched sit-in in Nisab district, Shebwa province, calling for removal of govt-aligned governor and protesting economic deterioration; President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi 26 Dec replaced governor with member of parliament aligned with former ruling General People’s Congress party. Economic situation im-proved with Riyal dropping to below 1,000 to U.S. dollar after govt 6 Dec replaced governor and deputy governor of govt-controlled Central Bank. Internationally, UN Envoy Hans Grundberg 13 Dec concluded visit to Oman’s capital Muscat where he met Yemeni and Omani officials, including Huthi chief negotiator Mohammed Ab-dul Salem, while Huthis continued to deny Grundberg entry into Sanaa. Grundberg 14 Dec briefed UN Security Council emphasising dire economic situation and need for negotiations even without ceasefire.

November 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Iran

Tehran and world powers resumed talks on restoring nuclear deal after five-month-long hiatus, while Iran continued to expand nuclear programme amid flurry of diplomatic activity. After months-long pause in indirect talks between U.S. and Iran in Austrian capital Vienna, EU-coordinated negotiations resumed 29 Nov with meeting of nuclear deal’s current signatories. In lead up to talks, Deputy FM Ali Bagheri during second week of Nov undertook visits to UK, France, Germany and Spain while mid-month engaging with Russia and China. In likely attempt to underscore dividends of successful talks, U.S. and Gulf Cooperation Council 17 Nov issued statement that alluded to “efforts to build effective diplomatic channels with Iran” and prospect of “deeper economic ties” in event of deal’s revival, points which were stressed again next day with endorsement of UK, France and Germany following talks in Saudi capital Riyadh. International Atomic Ene