Turkey Seeks to Mend Ties with the United Arab Emirates: Turkey and the United Arab Emirates normalized bilateral relations after a decade of tensions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) met for the first time since 2012 in Ankara, Turkey, on November 24, 2021. Turkish and Emirati officials signed several cooperation agreements, including agreements to facilitate new Emirati investments into Turkey’s weakening economy. The Erdogan-MBZ meeting followed months of high-level engagements since Emirati Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash expressed interest in improving relations with Ankara in January 2021. Turkey and the UAE’s opposing interests in Libya, Syria, and the eastern Mediterranean have strained their relations over the past decade, as has Turkey’s cultivation of close ties with rival Qatar.
Saudi Arabia’s accelerating pressure campaign against the Lebanese government threatens to weaken Lebanese Hezbollah’s voter support and influence within the country’s governing coalition prior to the 2022 election. An unfavorable election outcome for Lebanese Hezbollah could fragment the March 8 Alliance political coalition it controls. In addition to buttressing domestic support and consolidating control over the March 8 Alliance, Lebanese Hezbollah may pursue kinetic operations against Saudi targets to erode Riyadh’s resolve.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is pressuring Ukraine and the West on multiple fronts. He has set conditions to conduct military operations against Ukraine on a large scale. He is exploiting Russia’s leverage on Europe’s energy supplies and enabling Belarusian escalation against Poland, a NATO country. These efforts are parts of a deliberate campaign supporting specific demands Putin is making of the West, including permanently abjuring further enlargement of NATO and military support to Ukraine. He may not launch the invasion he has prepared, but he is determined to use its threat along with his other tools of leverage to compel the West’s formal recognition of Russia’s suzerainty over the former Soviet states. Nord Stream 2 is part of these efforts and always has been. It is a threat to Europe’s security and to Ukraine’s independence. This pipeline will change the geopolitical landscape in Europe for years to come. It is worth renewing the fight to prevent Nord Stream 2 from starting operations.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s campaign to coerce the European Union (EU) to repeal sanctions has further geopolitically isolated Belarus and expanded opportunities for Russia to deploy forces into Belarus to threaten Ukraine and NATO. Russia and Belarus set conditions throughout November to expand military cooperation on the Belarus-Ukrainian border under the guise of protecting the Kremlin-dominated Union State from claimed NATO threats. Lukashenko continues to conduct a campaign of migrant trafficking despite framing EU states as responsible for the crisis by refusing to accept migrants. US allies neighboring Belarus—including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine—have increased security measures on the Belarusian border throughout November.
UPDATED December 30, 2:30pm
Russia is setting conditions to conduct military operations against Ukraine and/or in Belarus in the coming weeks or months. The Russian Federation has positioned military forces around Ukraine’s border and near the border with Belarus able to initiate offensive operations on very short notice with very little warning. Russian officials and media outlets have been setting conditions in the information space to support such operations. This document is not intended as a forecast or an assessment of the likelihood of any such Russian activities, all of which are also consistent with Russian non-military lines of effort against Ukraine, Belarus, the US, and NATO.
Turkey likely abandoned its plans for an incursion into Syria after a significant military buildup in October. Turkey and the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) planned, signaled, and prepared for a Turkish military incursion into northern Syria in late October after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the military operation on October 11. The incursion would have been Turkey’s fourth into Syria and targeted the Kurdish-majority autonomous region controlled by the US-partnered Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). SDF commander Mazloum Abdi told al-Monitor on November 9 that SDF forces expected a Turkish military campaign on November 5. Turkey’s recent military mobilization was the largest in northeastern Syria since its most recent incursion in October 2019, indicating likely genuine preparations for an incursion and not simply posturing. However, the social media reports of Turkish military reinforcements and SNA statements on an “upcoming incursion” came to an end by October 31. Turkey likely abandoned plans by early November.
The Kremlin undermined a key guarantor of the Balkan peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, weakening dampeners on renewed conflict and empowering Russia’s Serbian allies. The Kremlin politically weakened the Office of the High Representative (OHR), a key US and EU-backed international institution devoted to maintaining the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. Russia removed all mention of the OHR’s stabilizing role from an annual United Nations Security Council resolution to renew the EU-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina on November 3. By doing so, Russia undermined the OHR’s political authority and ability work to with peacekeeping forces, impeding its ability to mediate between the component institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Kremlin characterizes the OHR and the Dayton Accords as illegitimate agreements imposed on Bosnia by the Western dominated world order. The Kremlin often seeks to support the Bosnian Republika Srpska and key Russian ally Serbia and undermine EU and NATO efforts to preserve the Dayton Accords.
Iran likely supported and facilitated a failed attempt by its Iraqi proxy militias to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to retain Iran’s dominant influence in Iraq. Iran likely permitted the attack after Iraqi nationalist Shi’a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr began to pursue a new government without the participation of Iran’s proxies in the aftermath of Iraq’s October 10, 2021, elections. Iran and its proxies are most likely to deescalate if Sadr agrees to form a consensus government without Kadhimi as prime minister. However, Iran has demonstrably shifted its policy towards the current Iraqi government and may be willing to permit more violence to achieve its objectives: an Iranian-influenced government under a controllable prime minister who accepts Iran’s dominant position. In a less likely but most dangerous scenario, Sadr could deploy his own militias to counter Iranian threats, risking a wider civil war in Iraq.
The United States must improve its proficiency with three core strategic skills to meet a future of conflict that is already unfolding.
Russian Military Movements Unlikely Preparing for Imminent Offensive against Ukraine but Still ConcerningNovember 2, 2021 - Press ISW
Movements and activities of elements of Russia’s 41st Combined Arms Army (CAA) and 1st Guards Tank Army in late October are unlikely to be preparations for an offensive against Ukraine, but do pose longer-term challenges to Russia’s neighbors and NATO. The Washington Post reported on October 30 that a “buildup” of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border concerned US and European officials. The report suggested that the Russian deployments are similar to those carried out on Ukraine’s border in March-April 2021. Open-source reporting does not support the assessment that Russia has moved any additional forces closer to the Ukrainian border or that a Russian offensive against Ukraine is imminent, however. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense stated on November 1 it has not observed any transfers of Russian units, weapons, or equipment to the Ukrainian border.