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Market in Sana'a, Yemen, Photographed by a Navanti Researcher in September.

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

To see the complete roundup, which features many more article summaries and additional context, click here.

East Africa

Despite the Islamic State in Somalia’s (ISS) slow rate of operations, the group appears to continue efforts to establish a stronger presence in Somalia, including training recruits at a makeshift camp in the country’s north. ISS is likely to keep planning and conducting attacks targeting Somali security forces and key infrastructure, despite pressure from the competing VEO group Al-Shabaab, as well as Somali and US military efforts to counter ISS progress. — Long War Journal  

A Navanti researcher, a community leader in Garowe, had this to say about ISS: “Islamic State operations inside Somalia have drastically slowed down in recent months. It is probable that continued pressure by al-Shabaab, as well as military efforts by Puntland security forces, the Somali military, and the threat of US airstrikes have slowed its operational tempo."

Climate extremes threaten the livelihoods of vulnerable communities in Somalia, particularly women and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The lack of fuel in a post-disaster environment causes families to go hungry, or put themselves in dangerous situations in search of fuel. Possible solutions include the promotion of energy-efficient technologies and other alternatives, such as non-wood sources of fuel. — El Sevier 

West Africa

Nigeria’s Borno state government is providing support to some 10,000 hunters from Nigeria and neighboring countries to aid the military and its partners in the fight against the insurgencies of Boko Haram, and its splinter group the Islamic State West Africa Province. Though hunters have previously volunteered to fight the militants, this is the first time they have received government backing, demonstrating Nigeria’s need for extra manpower. – Pulse Nigeria

A wave of deadly attacks in northern Burkina Faso over the past three weeks has displaced nearly 500,000 people, causing the military to abandon several posts in the area and creating a lawless environment where VEOs linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda can flourish. The violence, which started near the Malian border and has spread to just 60 miles north of the capital, has been attributed to ethnic and intercommunal tensions. — New York Times

North Africa

Tunisia’s presidential elections have redefined the young democracy’s political sphere, with outsider law professor Kais Saied winning a landslide victory. Tunisian journalism collective Inkyfada gives a blow-by-blow photographic account of the “fall of the political establishment,” referencing the 15th September first-round election when Tunisia’s party elite lost out to two independent candidates riding a wave of popular disillusionment.  — Inkyfada (Arabic)

A parallel information war is raging alongside Libya’s conflict. Libyan National Army (LNA) leader Khalifa Hifter benefits from social media messaging campaigns hailing his counter-terrorism credentials and painting him as a strongman. Much of this traffic can be traced back to his supporters in the Gulf states – namely the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabi. — Centro Studi Internazionali

Yemen 

While National Army (NA) and Houthi forces combat each other elsewhere in Yemen, the two factions may be approaching an agreement to allow humanitarian aid to flow into the city of Ta’izz for the first time in over four years. Room for setbacks still exists, but this unique dynamic may demonstrate how local-level units can reach settlements in spite of national-level conflict. — Yafa News (Arabic)

Talks in Jeddah between the Republic of Yemen of Government (ROYG) and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) may be bearing fruit, as both sides seem to signal readiness to sign a power-sharing agreement over Yemen’s South. — AlMasdar (Arabic)

Iran

Women in Iran entered the Azadi Stadium to watch a live men’s soccer match for the first time in nearly 40 years after pressure from FIFA, following Sahar Khodayari’s self-immolation in September protesting the ban on women’s entry into stadiums. Some 3,500 segregated seats of the nearly 80,000 seat stadium were reserved for women. Three days before the match, around 50 hard-liners protested the decision outside Iran’s parliament building. — Radio Farda (Farsi)

The Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) analyzed findings from three surveys fielded in May, August, and early October 2019 to evaluate how the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign is affecting public opinion in Iran. Among 11 main findings, the report states, “for the first time, less than half of Iranians approve of the nuclear deal and a majority lacks confidence that the other P5+1 countries besides the U.S. will keep their obligations under the nuclear deal,” and that “the public’s doubts about the value of trying to address other contentious issues through diplomacy and mutual compromise has grown.” — CISSM

Iraq

With the exception of some mixed areas like Baghdad, Iraq’s latest protest movement has seen an absence of Sunni participants, who fear they will be accused of connections to the Islamic State, or the former Ba’ath regime, if they demonstrate on the streets. All nine governorates that witnessed large protests are Shiite. — Al-Monitor

The Iraqi government’s ban on the Internet, instituted in order to quell protests that began in October, has cost Iraqi owners of Internet-dependent businesses $1 billion until now. — Agence France-Presse (Arabic)

Syria

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are using a sophisticated network of underground tunnels to slow the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria, which began last week following the pullout of US forces from the country’s northern border. The SDF started building this network of tunnels following Turkey’s incursion into Kurdish-majority Afrin in January 2018. — Foreign Policy

Concurrent with rapid developments in the northeast, Damascus is cracking down on war profiteers connected to the Assad family along the Syrian coast. This crackdown is likely intended to reestablish state control over militia movements, provide a cash infusion into the devastated Syrian economy, and improve the government’s standing as an anti-corruption force in the eyes of residents. — Al-Modon (Arabic)

Eastern Europe & The Balkans

Beyond Wagner: A new breed of Russian military companies is eclipsing the storied Wagner Group, following a series of setbacks suffered by Wagner including the disastrous assault on a US military position in eastern Syria in February 2018. — Foreign Policy

Using pilot call logs, The New York Times has reconstructed Russian military activity in support of the Assad regime, and documented four Syrian hospitals bombed by Russia in a 12-hour window. — New York Times

Elections challenge central Europe’s populist, right-wing governments as an opposition candidate lands Budapest’s mayorship and the ruling Polish PiS party loses parliamentary ground. — Washington Post

Central Asia

Open Democracy has published a set of essays exploring power dynamics in knowledge production, offering experiences, perspectives, and analysis from a group of Central Asian scholars as additions to feminist and critical perspectives on research practice. These five brief essays call attention to the implicit inequalities and hierarchies that can characterize capacity building, data collection, knowledge production, publication, and knowledge transfer – while also highlighting that in Central Asia, the roles of local researcher or respondent carry complications related to safety, academic freedom, and engagement with authoritarian structures. — Open Democracy

For many more article summaries and additional context, take a look at the complete roundup here.

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