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CTP’s Threat Update series is a weekly update and assessment of Iran and the al Qaeda network. CTP’s Iran team follows developments on the internal politics, nuclear negotiations, and regional conflicts closely. The al Qaeda network update includes detailed assessments of al Qaeda’s affiliates in Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and the Maghreb and Sahel.
Below are the top three takeaways from the week:
1. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Murabitoun confirmed their rumored re-unification, citing their combined November 20 attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali as proof. Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of al Murabitoun, split from AQIM in December 2012. This reconciliation of al Qaeda affiliates, which likely stems from their desire to counter ISIS’s influence in the region, increases the security threat to northern Mali as the groups integrate their resources, personal networks, and lines of communication.
2. The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) assassinated its first high-profile target in Yemen. ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan claimed responsibility for a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack that killed the Governor of Aden and threatened to launch additional attacks on Yemeni government officials. ISIS will likely attempt to leverage this spectacular attack to drive recruitment in the region, possibly in competition with AQAP elements regenerating in neighboring Abyan governorate. ISIS's growing strength in Aden will threaten the Saudi-led coalition's efforts to secure the city and restore President Hadi's government there.
3. The International Atomic Energy Agency is likely to close its investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran's nuclear program following the release of its report on December 2. The report assesses that while Iran made a “coordinated effort” to develop a “nuclear explosive device” before the end of 2003, there are no “credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi claimed that the report proves “the peaceful nature” of Iran’s nuclear program and called upon the P5+1 to close Iran’s PMD file at the IAEA Board of Governors in December.