Regional Intelligence up to 26th November 2014 supplied by 5 Dimensions Consultants. For further more detailed reports or bespoke reports please contact 5 Dimensions directly quoting SecurityMiddelEast.com
Marib, Baydah and Hodeida remain areas of deep instability, due to advances by Houthi militants who are resisted by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and their allies. Meanwhile, rifts emerge in Ali Abdullah Saleh’s GPC party, and the Southern Movement gears up for November 30, the date it has announced it would form a separate country from the north.
The last number of days has seen intense fighting between the Syrian regime and the Islamic State (IS) for control of the al-Shaer gas fields in Homs governorate. There have been no major advances on the ground and we suspect that the situation in the north of Syria will not change dramatically before the end of the year. Cold weather will hinder the capabilities of armed groups to move fighters and heavy weaponry around, making it seem likely that fighting will become less intense. However, in all probability the redeployment of regime forces and rebel fighters to central and eastern parts of the country will lead to renewed fighting in those areas.
Prince Mutaib, head of the National Guard, makes a short visit to the US to meet with President Barack Obama and other senior US officials. The visit prompts speculation that the US sees Mutaib as a strong candidate for eventual succession to the throne.
On the face of it, the immediate succession process has been arranged and agreed upon by senior princes of the al Saud family. King Abdullah will be succeeded by Crown Prince Salman, an event which in turn should make the current deputy Crown Prince Muqrin the next heir to the throne. But further down the line, it is still not entirely clear and Prince Mutaib’s recent visit to the US has reignited the issue of succession once again. Over the next few weeks and months, we would expect that a number of influential figures within the Sudari faction and Royal Court will make public their support for the deputy Crown Prince position.
Hezbollah is facing some constraints as Syria and Iran reduce their military and financial backing, respectively, due to changing priorities. At the same time, Hezbollah is focusing on securing the support of communities along the border between Lebanon and Syria in order to shore up defences against a possible Sunni jihadist advance.
The so’called Islamic State (IS) launches a coordinated effort to take complete control of Ramadi city, the capital of Anbar province. The army’s inability to contain the offensive highlights serious problems at the highest level of command.
At the moment, the situation in Ramadi remains ongoing. The IS has poured significant resources (fighters and weapons) into taking the city and the province as a whole, knowing that it is likely to be supported in its efforts by many local Sunni tribes which are hostile to the government in Baghdad. If the IS takes Ramadi, it would be the second provincial capital after Mosul to fall under its control. It would also be a major morale booster for the group, in spite of the resistance of the Iraqi army supported by some Sunni tribes and repeated US air strikes.
Yet it also clearly exposes significant failings on the part of the Iraqi army. As has been stated, it is apparent that there lie serious communications problems between the army and Baghdad regarding who is in charge of commanding forces on the ground. It is also evident that failings on the part of the army to support local tribes which have resisted the IS onslaught have hindered military progress greatly.
On November 22, Bahrain held its first elections since Arab Spring inspired protests erupted in 2011. A second round of voting is underway in many districts where results were too close to call.
With the second round of voting due this weekend, there is likely to be continued instability in the days approaching the vote and on Election Day itself. Al-Wefaq will seek to use the opportunity to cause further disruption as it tries to bring global attention to its grievances. In our opinion, the results will not have any major implications on political developments in Bahrain.