The Global Overview

APRIL 2024 

Middle East, North Africa and Turkey

Despite mounting international pressure for a ceasefire in Gaza, including a UNSC resolution, progress remains broadly stalled amid allegedly significant Hamas demands and persistent Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations, including around health facilities. The impact of anti-West sentiment emanating from the conflict was reflected through the 5 March announcement by the Alshaya Group (the regional franchisee of Starbucks) that around 2,000 workers would be let go. Operational disruption was also driven in March by frequent protests targeting (among other sites) embassies, including in Jordan. Risks of regional escalation also increased; last month, the IDF conducted its furthest strikes into Lebanon to date. We also released our latest report on escalation in the Red Sea, in which we assessed that conflict between the US-led maritime coalition and the Iran-backed Houthis is increasingly likely to continue regardless of whether a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war is reached; this will sustain maritime disruption risks.

Sub-Saharan Africa 

In Senegal, the opposition Pastef party candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye was victorious in the 24 March presidential election. Faye has since announced plans to renegotiate oil and gas contracts. This threatens to delay the development of substantial offshore deposits, while his commitments to enacting tax reforms will almost certainly drive heightened costs for businesses operating in the country. On 16 March, Niger’s junta revoked a military accord with the US, with immediate effect. The announcement significantly threatens the future of the airbase at Agadez, the centre of US counterinsurgency, reconnaissance and rapid strike capabilities across the Sahel.

Eurasia 

Russian President Vladimir Putin won the presidential election on 17 March, allegedly gaining more than 87% of the vote. We assessed that his re-election was almost certain; genuine opposition candidates were barred from competing, while heightened censorship and repression dominated the build-up to the vote. Before the election, the US embassy in Russia warned on 7 March that unspecified extremists planned to target large gatherings in the capital Moscow in the ensuing 48 hours. Although no incident occurred in that period, Islamic State (IS) later claimed responsibility for a terror attack at a concert venue in Moscow oblast on 22 March, in which at least 140 people were killed. The attack will likely drive ethno-religious tensions and xenophobia towards Central Asian migrants within Russia. Finally, Russian forces launched a mass wave of strikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure on 21-22 March; these were highly likely in retaliation to recent attacks conducted by Ukraine against Russian oil refineries.

Europe 

In our latest Extremism Quarterly, we assessed that extremist far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) factions are likely to win state elections in September, increasing government instability and domestic unrest risks. However, we also assessed that the AfD is unlikely to secure enough votes to govern. Meanwhile, we addressed some of the major security concerns facing France in the lead-up to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The French authorities will adopt a heavily augmented security posture across the capital that will help to mitigate against key threats, including Islamist terrorism and crime. Our report was accompanied by an interactive crime dashboard containing data from 2016 to 2023. Finally, we assessed that drug-related violence in Brussels (Belgium) is unlikely to abate in the medium term as the causes of this trend remain broadly unchanged.

East Asia and Pacific 

China’s annual ‘Two Sessions’ highlighted Beijing’s priorities for the coming year; they confirmed an ambitious GDP growth target of 5%, despite a lack of accompanying significant fiscal stimulus measures. There were also further signs of the centralising of power by President Xi Jinping. Financial regulatory reforms are part of Beijing’s plans to facilitate sustainable growth while strengthening financial resilience. Additionally, Hong Kong swiftly passed a new national security law, the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, which will increase uncertainty for firms and erode civil liberties as the differences between the territory and mainland China continue to shrink. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s president resigned after serving just over a year in office amid an ongoing anti-corruption investigation, underlining what has become an increasingly volatile leadership structure under General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.

South Asia  

India’s election commission announced that the country’s general election will be held between 19 April and 1 June over seven phases. It will take place amid a highly charged political environment; risks pertaining to domestic unrest and ethno-religious tensions will be sustained throughout the lengthy election period. Elsewhere, Pakistan’s new government, once again led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, faces numerous challenges. While the IMF agreed to release the final USD 1.1 billion of its bailout package, a new package is needed to support Pakistan’s (still) fragile economy. Additionally, a string of attacks in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces (both Pakistan) highlight the security forces' inability to contain militant activity as tensions with Afghanistan remain strained; this situation will serve to embolden and facilitate the activity of militant groups in both countries.

North America 

In the US, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Colorado does not have the authority to disqualify Donald Trump from the presidential ballot. The ruling lessened government stability risks as both Trump and President Joe Biden secured sweeping victories in the 5 March ‘Super Tuesday’ primaries. Congress passed all the FY2024 spending bills, though policy stagnation risks regarding border security and foreign aid remain elevated. Congress and the Biden administration announced new investments in domestic critical mineral production to decrease supply chain dependency on China in the long term. Activism-related domestic unrest risks increased as the Supreme Court heard a case related to abortion. This issue will continue to be divisive in the run-up to November’s election. In Canada, heightened levels of immigration continue to strain public resources. In response, the federal government imposed visa requirements on Mexican travellers and introduced a cap on the number of temporary residents allowed in the country, increasing labour flexibility risks. Additionally, opposition to a planned increase in the carbon tax has created strains between the federal government and a coalition of provincial leaders, increasing government stability risks.

Latin America  

Gang control of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince and the continued delay in installing a transition council have elevated the risk of attacks, government instability, human rights violations and a deterioration in socio-economic health. Meanwhile, the Argentine government’s deployment of the armed forces to Rosario (Santa Fe province) to combat growing ‘narco-terrorism’ has heightened the risk of the security forces’ militarisation. Narco-terrorism in itself has increased the risks of organised and violent crime. Elsewhere, the escalation of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s repression campaign points to continued human rights risks, as well as an erosion of regulatory framework and supervision quality. Should the opposition be entirely prohibited from taking part in the election, regional tensions with the US (and sanctions) are likely to follow.

Cyber

Sibylline observed several trends throughout March. The exploitation of software vulnerabilities by state-sponsored and cyber criminal groups remained consistent; they comprised a large percentage of attack vectors. Malware operations conducted by financially and politically motivated actors continued at a steady pace, though they were mostly observed during cyber espionage operations carried out by Russian state-sponsored actors. Conversely, ransomware continues to be one of the most effective profit-making tools for financially motivated cyber criminals. March highlighted a significant uptick in the sophistication of threat actors’ tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) as they carefully refine their campaigns and techniques to profit from more lucrative targets. Non-western governments – namely China, North Korea and Russia – have also markedly ramped up state-sponsored campaigns as bilateral tensions remain strained.

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