Iran held separate elections for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts on March 1. These elections will likely preserve and possibly even reinforce hardliner influence in the Iranian regime
Reported details of Russian-Ukrainian peace negotiations that occurred in Istanbul in April 2022 indicate that Russia has consistently envisioned a settlement for its illegal invasion of Ukraine wherein Ukraine would be unable to defend itself from a future Russian attack – an objective Russia continues to pursue under calls for Ukraine’s “demilitarization.”
Ukrainian officials are reportedly concerned about the possibility of significant Russian territorial gains in summer 2024 in the event of continued delays in Western security assistance. Bloomberg reported that internal Ukrainian assessments state that Russian advances along the frontline could gain significant momentum by summer 2024 unless Ukraine’s partners increase provisions of artillery ammunition. Bloomberg reported that sources close to Ukrainian leadership stated that Ukraine expects Russian forces to decide between continuing their current focus on gradual tactical advances and preparing for a larger breakthrough attempt in summer 2024 depending on the results of current Russian offensive operations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on February 25 that Russian forces are preparing for a new offensive effort that will start in late May or summer 2024.
Iranian-backed Iraqi militia attacks targeting US forces has impeded the US-led international campaign to defeat ISIS in recent months, according to the Lead Inspector General’s quarterly report. US advisory forces are deployed to Iraq under Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) at the request of the Iraqi federal government to advise and assist partner forces to “independently maintain the enduring defeat of ISIS.” The Iranian-backed attack campaign targeting US forces has required OIR to divert resources from supporting Iraqi partners to instead address “increased” and “immediate” threats. OIR reported that the redirected resources “hindered momentum” in pursuing OIR’s objectives. The previous OIR quarterly report at the end of 2023 said that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) already faces deficiencies in fire support, intelligence, logistics, and planning that prevent it from defeating ISIS alone.
The PRC Coast Guard entered and patrolled prohibited and restricted waters around Taiwan-controlled Kinmen, likely as part of a PRC strategy to assert sovereignty over the island. The Fujian branch of the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) announced that it had conducted law enforcement patrols around Kinmen on February 25. PRC state media Global Times cited an “anonymous professional” who claimed the CCG entered the “restricted zone” around Kinmen island. Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration (CGA) did not confirm or deny the incursion. ROC Ocean Affairs Council Minister Kuan Bi-ling stated that five CCG marine surveillance ships entered Kinmen’s “restricted zone” on February 26, however, including one that crossed into Kinmen’s “prohibited zone.” The total number of CCG ships around Kinmen increased to 11 on February 27, including two that entered Kinmen’s “restricted zone.”
Russia and Togo are increasing ties as the Kremlin aims to expand its influence beyond the Sahel in West Africa. French-based investigative news site Africa Intelligence reported on February 19 that a contingent of 30 Russian military advisers that recently arrived in Togo are helping Togolese troops build a new military camp on the border with Burkina Faso. The purpose of the camp is to defend against Salafi-jihadi attacks that largely emanate from Burkina Faso.
Palestinian militias have claimed at least 92 attacks targeting Israeli forces in Zaytoun, southeastern Gaza City, between February 19 and February 28. At least seven Palestinian militias conducted attacks on Israeli forces in Zaytoun on February 27 and 28. Palestinian militias have targeted Israeli forces with rocket propelled grenades, mortars, explosively-formed penetrators (EFP), improvised explosive devices, small arms, and rockets in Zaytoun since February 19. These attacks are in response to the ongoing division-sized clearing operation targeting Zaytoun.
Pro-Russian Moldovan breakaway region Transnistria held the Seventh Congress of Transnistrian Deputies on February 28 and adopted a series of decisions that likely aim to provide the Kremlin with justifications for a wide range of possible escalatory actions against Moldova — actions the Kremlin can pursue both immediately and over the long-term. The Congress of Transnistrian Deputies adopted seven decisions, including a request to the Russian State Duma and Federation Council for Russian “defense” of Transnistria in response to alleged increasing pressures from Moldova. Transnistrian officials specifically used “zashchita” (защита), a word that means both “defense” and “protection” in their request, likely to set conditions for the Kremlin to interpret “defense” in a military sense if it so chooses.
Russian forces are attempting to exploit tactical opportunities offered by the Russian seizure of Avdiivka and appear to be maintaining a relatively high tempo of offensive operations aimed at pushing as far as possible in the Avdiivka area before Ukrainian forces establish more cohesive and harder-to-penetrate defensive lines in the area. Russian forces temporarily decreased their tempo of operations as they cleared Avdiivka following the Russian seizure of the settlement on February 17, but have since resumed a relatively high tempo of assaults further west and northwest of Avdiivka.
Two Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated sources told the New York Times that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias “fiercely resisted” IRGC Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani’s orders in late January to halt attacks targeting US forces in the region. The two IRGC-affiliated sources claimed that Kataib Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba commanders refused to stop attacking US forces during a meeting with Ghaani in Baghdad, which Reuters reported occurred on January 29. Iranian and Iraqi sources added that senior Iraqi Shia clerics in Najaf and influential Iraqi politicians, including the Iraqi prime minister, convinced Kataib Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba to halt the attacks.