Recently, prosecutors in Mexico announced the discovery of 19 plastic bags containing human remains in the western state of Jalisco, an area already embroiled in cartel violence due to the dominant presence of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). This development indicates a probable continuation of the surging levels of violence that has gripped Mexico for more than a decade.
The Houthi rebels, a contender in the Yemeni civil war, have reportedly threatened to increase their use of violence against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) if the Stockholm Agreement, a ceasefire that is in place at the port of Hudaydah, is breached by their adversaries. This threat could indicate a potential failure of the Stockholm Agreement in the port of Hudaydah due to rising escalations between the Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia, as well as the provision of weaponry to the Houthi rebels by Iran.
The Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) has increased bombing operations against state-owned pipelines in Colombia, amid major oil sanctions placed on the Venezuelan government by the United States. This increase in attacks reinforces our assessment, with high confidence, that the ELN is growing in power.
Following his third and most recent arrest by Mexican authorities and his subsequent extradition to the United States, guilty verdicts were recently announced in the trial of Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera. While this individual conviction is significant for US and Mexican authorities, it is unclear whether the removal of Guzmán from the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel will significantly impact the group’s operational capacity or stability in the near term.
The 2018 maritime piracy report, which was recently released to the public, gives a detailed report on piracy incidents that happened in the past year. The data in the report points to a rise in piracy in some areas with a drop in others, but it is still too early to state with confidence if the war against maritime piracy is being won overall.
Despite a drastic reduction in tensions and increased dialogue between North Korea and the United States, North Korea has not taken any major steps in dismantling its nuclear weapons program since the leaders of both countries first met back in June of 2018. Now a second summit between US President Donald Trump and the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un is scheduled to take place between February 27 and 28. It could be stated with moderate confidence that this summit will not result in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
A War Powers Resolution limiting the United States’ aid in Saudi Arabia, a major contender in the Yemeni proxy war, has reportedly passed through the United States House of Representatives and is currently making its way through the Senate. If this resolution were to pass, it would indicate a possible deceleration for the proxy war in Yemen due to the degree of involvement that Saudi Arabia has in the war, with American assistance.
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.
Following the 27th murder of a Colombian community leader this year, Colombian officials and former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) met to discuss the implementation of the peace treaty and its obstacles. This may lead to improvements in the peace process, but it is still too early to determine with high confidence if the talks will lead to actual changes.
As Islamic State operatives have been pushed from the coastal town of Sirte into the Libyan Desert, there have been several reports of attacks on water and oil pipelines. The group, therefore, continues to pose a significant threat as it increasingly uses unconventional means to undermine Libyan security, despite losing its remaining territory in Libya.
Regardless of past indications, the Trump administration’s stance toward the Paris Climate Agreement appears to have shifted following an open letter from several of the country’s largest companies and wealthiest investors. This shift potentially indicates an inclination by the Trump administration to acquiesce to pressure from corporate interests. In light of this, it can be stated with moderate confidence that President Donald Trump will not remove America from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2018.