President Donald Trump’s new strategy on Iran emphasized countering Iranian support for the al Houthi movement in Yemen. Iran provides limited sophisticated weaponry to al Houthi forces to produce an outsized effect on rival Gulf States, entangling them in a protracted conflict. The al Houthi movement is not yet an Iranian proxy akin to Hezbollah—but repeated attacks on Saudi-led coalition and U.S. warships demonstrate that it does not need to be for Iran to project power into the Bab al Mandab Strait.
Critical Threats Project analyst Maher Farrukh writes Yemen’s Iranian-backed al Houthi movement is consolidating control over Sana’a-based governing institutions after former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh failed to push back against the group. Additionally, separatists backed by the UAE are establishing independent governing structures that rival the U.S.-backed Yemeni government in southern Yemen. He warns that southern political actors’ pursuit of independence may prevent a political settlement to the Yemeni conflict and undermine U.S. policy in the region.
AEI’s Critical Threats Project team tracks developments related to Yemen closely. Here are some of the highlights of the team’s recent analysis of the conflict:
How to Repair and Rebuild America's Military
By Mackenzie Eaglen, The National Interest: “At his 1993 Confirmation as Director of the CIA, James Woolsey observed that “we have slain a large [Soviet] dragon, but we live now in a jungle with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes.” His predictions have borne out across the three theaters most pivotal to America's interests.”
TEAM TRUMP ON U.S. FOREIGN POLICY CHALLENGES & IDENTIFIES 11 RISK NATION STATES REGARDING ALIEN STATUS
According to two government officials who were willing to identify the 11 nations to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity, [the high-risk refugee countries] are Egypt, Iran, Libya, South Sudan, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, Mali, North Korea, Somalia and Syria. - Washington Post
It’s also important to understand that today’s foreign-policy challenges— whether it’s Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East, North Korea’s breakneck nuclear breakout, China’s rise, Russia’s nihilism, Europe’s populism and fragmentation, Syria’s civil war, or transnational terrorism and cyber threats—did not start with Trump. This is the most challenging foreign-policy environment any White House has confronted in modern history. - The Atlantic
U.S. CARRIER STRIKE GROUPS MOVING TO WESTERN PACIFIC & U.S. WAR PLANNERS WEIGH THE RISE OF INDIA-CHINA
Three U.S. carrier strike groups are now operating in U.S. 7th Fleet, after the strike group previously tasked with conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq has left the Persian Gulf en route to the Western Pacific, according to a statement from the Navy. - USNI News
China-India strategic overlap: As the Communist Party of China held its 19th Party Congress, the world watched closely to see what it meant for China and for the rest of the world, Avinash Godbole writes. The main question that the party grapples with domestically is how to ensure political accountability and deliver public goods without ushering in further political reforms. This was also the highlight of what party General Secretary Xi Jinping called the principal contradiction facing Chinese society. A cursory look at his report to the Congress confirms that it focuses on ensuring better governance within the country and developing an extended engagement externally. There are many areas where India’s strategic interests overlap with China’s. Strategic contact with Beijing is bound to rise further as China’s global ambitions increase. At the same time, neither conflict nor cooperation is pre-ordained. How the principles listed by Xi evolve into policy over the next five years will have a crucial impact on this area. READ THE STORY HERE
U.S., AFRICA: African Joint Force to 'Bring the Fight & Terror' to Militants
By Kaitlin Lavinder, The Cipher Brief: “African nations are trying to demonstrate they’re taking control of their own security, as they face a rising threat from instability and militancy.”
Northeastern Nigeria, now in its eighth year of war with Boko Haram, has become a place afraid of its own girls. So far this year, militants have carried out more than twice as many suicide bombings than they did in all of 2016, and the attacks keep coming. According to Unicef, more than 110 children have been used as suicide bombers since the start of the year – at least 76 of them girls. Most were under 15 years old. - New York Times
A massive blast in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu on Oct. 14 and more recent terror attacks in Somalia, Niger and Egypt highlight Africa as a new battleground against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State as they are being driven out of the Middle East. - USA Today
When U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley arrived in South Sudan on Wednesday to assess how U.S. aid is being spent, she walked into a humanitarian disaster that threatens U.S. security interests. - Wall Street Journal
China’s 19th Party Congress: Xi's Enshrinement, a Return to Mao?
By June Teufel Dreyer, Foreign Policy Research Institute: “Outside China, views on the meeting varied, from Harvard professor Graham Allison’s adulatory essay entitled “Behold the New Emperor of China”—with no hint of sarcasm evident—to Oxford don Stein Ringen’s description of a ruthless dictatorship. Australian analyst Kevin Carrico, predicting a lengthy set of ritualistic speeches, said the congress would be much ado about nothing.”
China’s Reaganomics moment? Just two days after the US Senate paved the way for potential tax cuts, Beijing floated its own supply-side rejoinder, William Pesek writes. Finance Minister Xiao Jie spoke of plans to reduce the burden on businesses to the tune of $150 billion through a new value-added tax scheme and lower fees. Xiao didn’t highlight Trump’s tax plans, but then he didn’t have to. Chinese officialdom has been in a whirl since January, when the billionaire-turned-politician moved into the White House. If Trump cuts corporate taxes, Beijing fears it’ll lose investment to America and suffer a potential capital flight. A rush by Chinese manufacturers to invest in the US, Beijing fears, would slam the competitiveness of mainland exports. Hence China’s apparent move to match Trump’s Reaganomics moment. READ THE STORY HERE
China’s new era: The week-long 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) concluded as anticipated, with party Secretary General Xi Jinping emerging considerably stronger, Jayadeva Ranade writes. His contribution to Chinese Communist ideology was recognized and unanimously approved for incorporation into the Party Constitution as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” He is the first CPC leader to have his contribution, attached to his name, enshrined in the Party Constitution while still alive. The appointment of many Xi loyalists, who now constitute the majority of the membership of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Politburo, the CPC Central Committee, the Secretariat and the Central Military Commission, underscores the unmistakable – and anticipated – enhancement of Xi’s authority and influence. READ THE STORY HERE
China constitutional amendment: The ruling Communist Party enshrined President Xi Jinping’s political thought into its constitution on Tuesday, putting him in the same company as Mao Zedong, and cementing his power ahead of a new top leadership reshuffle, Michael Martina writes. The party unanimously passed an amendment to include “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” as one of its guiding principles at the end of its week-long congress. The party is expected to announce its new Standing Committee, the apex of power in China, on Wednesday. The current committee is made up of seven people. Also included in the amended constitution was the party’s “absolute” leadership over the military, that the fight against corruption will continue, Xi’s “Belt and Road” development initiative, supply-side reforms, and giving play to the “decisive role” of market forces in resource allocation. READ THE STORY HERE
The most important constitutional amendment of 2017 isn’t to the constitution of a country: It’s the amendment approved Tuesday to the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party, which enshrines President Xi Jinping’s “philosophy” alongside the thought of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. - Bloomberg
Russia has replaced Tunisia as the top exporter of foreign fighters to the ranks of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, according to new figures. - Newsweek
The leader of the Islamic State in the Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon, is dead. The city his forces seized, Marawi, on the island of Mindanao, is all but completely back in government hands after months of scorched-earth combat. But the Islamic State’s influence in the Philippines is far from over, and communities on Mindanao are bracing for the next battles. - New York Times
Fleeing grinding poverty and unemployment, thousands of Afghan Shi'ites have been recruited by Iran to defend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, former fighters and rights activists say. - AFP
Venezuela’s biggest market for crude sales -- the U.S. -- is becoming a harder and harder place for the socialist nation’s oil producer to do business as sanctions and diminishing quality controls discourage would-be buyers. - Bloomberg
Libyan activists team up with Al-Azhar to tackle extremism
A group of Libyan activists are working alongside Egypt’s Al-Azhar to protect religious clerics defending moderate Islam in Libya from extremist attacks.
MOTHER RUSSIA BLEEDS, FORMER RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANKER REVEALS PUTIN'S ECONOMY IS FALLING & THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATION OF RUSSIAN EXCEPTIONALISM
The Diagnosis after Three Years of Crisis, or Why the Russian Economy Survived
Three Russian warships, including two anti-submarine vessels, docked in Manila on Friday to unload what navy officials said was weaponry and military vehicles donated to the Philippines as part of a new defense relationship. - Reuters
Philippines counterinsurgency campaign: Shortly after the Southeast Asian country’s military killed the reputed top brass of Islamic State (IS)-affiliated militants this week, President Rodrigo Duterte declared: “I hereby declare Marawi city liberated from the terrorist influence.” Almost five months into the siege of Marawi, security officials this week verified the death of Isnilon Hapilon, the designated “emir” of the IS movement in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute, the top military commander of the IS-linked Maute Group in the Philippines, Richard Javad Heydarian writes. Omar’s brother, Abdullah, was killed in September, decapitating the eponymous group’s twin leadership. Intermittent firefights have continued across the city, with several foreign fighters still holding hostages and refusing to surrender to the authorities. Officials are now cautiously assessing the situation on the ground before giving the green light for the return of hundreds of thousands of displaced Marawi residents. READ THE STORY HERE