Sinaloa cartel kingpin Dámaso López Núñes has struck a deal with United States federal officials and might agree to testify against Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán in his upcoming trial. This important development adds to our assessment with high confidence that the Sinaloa Cartel is in decline because of the arrest of head kingpin El Chapo’, whose trial is about to begin.
Talks between Russia, China, and North Korea have resulted in a tripartite call for the gradual relief of sanctions on North Korea. This may indicate that Russia and China are looking to exert their influence on Pyongyang’s denuclearization negotiations, and in doing so undermine the United States’ strategy of maximum pressure.
US President Donald Trump recently fired and then replaced two key members of his cabinet who had significant influence on foreign policy and national security. The firing of the National Security advisor and the Secretary of State, as well as the replacements for those positions, indicate that the US will withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018.
United States President Donald Trump has extended an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet in Washington in the near future, despite the mutual expulsion of diplomats between the two countries. The possibility of a summit may point to alleviating tensions caused by the poisoning of Russian former spy Sergei Skripal in Britain, which prompted the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the US. While the outcome of a potential summit remains uncertain, we believe with high confidence that the US economic sanctions on Russia will stay in place throughout 2018.
Intensifying violence along Mexico’s Caribbean coast has led the United States to prohibit government personnel from traveling to Playa del Carmen4. The increase in violence is supportive of the concept that Mexican drug cartels are battling for territory, and while it would be premature to attribute the most recent security threat to a particular cartel, it is with high confidence we believe the Jalisco New Generation Cartel to be the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has intensified after United States President Donald Trump proceeded to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The continuing increase of violence in the region may indicate an impending Palestinian Intifada in the coming year, although it is still too early to state with confidence that it will occur.
A United Nations investigation has revealed that portions of aid money from international partners, including the United States, given by the UN to people displaced by conflict and famine in Somalia, are ending up in the hands of al-Shabaab. This reinforces our belief, with high confidence, that al-Shabaab is in a general state of resurgence in southern Somalia due to the declining influence of international aid in the Horn of Africa.
he United States Department of State recently released a medical study concerning US government personnel stationed at the American Embassy in Havana, who experienced a wide array of neurological ailments in 2016 and 2017. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), reinforces our belief that relations between the US and Cuba will not improve in 2018. This is largely due to the decreasing level of trust between Washington and Havana regarding the health and safety of US diplomatic personnel stationed in the Cuban capital.
The European Union’s executive branch, the European Commission, is threatening legal action against Poland if it continues to refuse to accommodate asylum seekers under the European Union’s migration plan (European Commission 2017). Poland is unlikely to change its position on accepting more migrants. Warsaw’s stance may prompt legal action from the European Union, which will only worsen an already declining relationship between the two.
The militant group formerly known as the al-Nusrah Front has rebranded itself and merged with four other factions to create a group now formally known as Tahrir al-Sham (BBC Monitoring). This rebranding could possibly allow the group to introduce new tactics and capabilities, which were unavailable to it prior to the merger. I assess with high confidence that Tahrir al-Sham will not be defeated in 2017, due to the merger that has occurred.