Interfor International‘s Weekly Security Digest - July 2, 2024

Interfor International‘s Weekly Security Digest – July 2, 2024

Interfor’s Weekly Digest | Global Security and Policy Insights – July 2, 2024 

Global Security Matters

International Affairs

  • Iranians will return to the polls this coming Friday for a run-off presidential election between reformist Masoud Pezeshkian and hardliner Saeed Jalili, who placed 1st and 2nd, respectively, in last week’s first round. Prominent conservative and parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf was eliminated after coming in a distant third. Both remaining candidates are hoping to mobilize more voters for the run-off, following a low turnout round one.
    • Pezeshkian and Jalili are now fighting over Qalibaf’s voters. While Qalibaf himself has voiced support for Jalili, many of his supporters may lean more toward Pezeshkian, citing Jalili’s especially hardline political leanings. Some also may have voted for Qalibaf not because they preferred his politics to Pezeshkian’s but because they saw him as a more formidable potential opponent to face off against Jalili. With Qalibaf out, those voters will likely go for Pezeshkian.
    • Many were surprised to see any reformist allowed to participate in the election, but Pezeshkian has gone out of his way to assure the Supreme Leader and regime loyalists that he would fall in line as president. Nevertheless, Pezeshkian’s election would be relatively good news for the US. Whether or not Pezeshkian’s administration would be open to any limited rapprochement with the US, a Jalili administration would almost certainly antagonize the US further and could choose to accelerate Iran’s nuclear program. 
    • Reformists likely made up a disproportionate share of those who boycotted round one of the election. Pezeshkian is surely hoping he will be able to bring some of those boycotters out to vote in the run-off. However, Jalili could just as easily consolidate and further mobilize the conservative and hardline vote. 
    • As usual in Iran, much rests on what outcome the Supreme Leader has decided he will accept. Even without direct interference, the Supreme Leader’s influence looms large in Iranian elections, with key political and religious figures often choosing whom to endorse based on whom they believe(or know) the Supreme Leader would prefer. 
  • The first round of voting in France’s legislative elections resulted in a significant setback for President Emmanuel Macron. His centrist coalition, Ensemble, lost its parliamentary majority, securing only 245 out of the 577 seats. This outcome presents a major challenge for Macron, who now faces difficulties in passing legislation. The left-wing Nupes coalition, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, emerged as a strong opposition force with 131 seats, while Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally achieved a historic breakthrough with 89 seats. This election is particularly crucial as it coincides with France’s preparations for the upcoming Olympic Games, heightening domestic political tensions and drawing global attention.
  • North Korea has criticized the strengthening trilateral ties between South Korea, the United States, and Japan, calling it an attempt to establish an “Asian version of NATO.” This accusation follows a series of recent diplomatic and military engagements among the three nations, aimed at addressing regional security threats, particularly those posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. The North Korean Foreign Ministry condemned these efforts, asserting that they exacerbate regional tensions and reflect a Cold War-era mentality. The Ministry warned that these alliances are provoking a new arms race and destabilizing the region. Additionally, North Korea specifically pointed to the “Freedom Edge” military drills conducted by South Korea, the U.S., and Japan as evidence of this growing militarization, arguing that such exercises increase the risk of conflict and undermine regional stability.
  • Nationwide public protests in Kenya signal the beginning of a push for new reforms, driven by widespread dissatisfaction with the current political and economic conditions. These protests, spanning various regions across the country, signify a powerful movement demanding change in governance and policy. The protests mark a pivotal moment in Kenya’s political landscape, signaling a growing movement among citizens to advocate for accountability and transparency in government. 
  • An investigation by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has uncovered that approximately 400 migrants brought to the United States were linked to a human smuggling network associated with ISIS. This network, operating primarily out of Pakistan and Turkey, exploited vulnerabilities in the U.S. immigration system. The migrants were smuggled through a complex route, involving multiple countries, before reaching the U.S. border. DHS officials are now focused on tracking these individuals and assessing any potential security threats they may pose, highlighting ongoing concerns about terrorist groups exploiting global migration flows to infiltrate countries.

Israel – Gaza

  • The United States has introduced new language to facilitate ceasefire and hostage negotiations between Israel and Hamas. The proposed three-phase plan is aimed at releasing hostages and achieving a lasting ceasefire. The US is urging Egypt and Qatar to persuade Hamas to accept the revised terms, which focus initially on further talks to establish a sustainable ceasefire. However, disagreements persist: Hamas insists on a permanent ceasefire, while Israel remains committed to achieving its military and strategic objectives within the Strip. This impasse suggests that an agreement between the two parties is unlikely. Despite ongoing negotiations, clashes continue in Gaza, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis with significant casualties reported.
  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has reported significant progress in a recent operation in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, killing at least 40 militants and destroying several tunnels. The IDF launched the operation on Thursday after detecting Hamas regrouping in the area. It has led to the discovery of previously unknown tunnel networks and Hamas facilities, including a school compound converted into a ‘combat complex’ housing a long-range rocket launcher. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed and two others were seriously injured during the mission.
  • In the largest barrage in months, Gaza militants launched 20 rockets at Israeli border communities, causing alarm and prompting retaliatory airstrikes from the Israeli military. The attack resulted in damage but no casualties, as most rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. The Israeli government has vowed to respond firmly to protect its citizens, while international calls for restraint and a return to calm continue.

Cyber / Defense Technology

  • Microsoft has alerted more customers about the expanding impact of the Midnight Blizzard hack, a cyber espionage campaign targeting government agencies and other organizations. The hackers, linked to a group known as APT29 or Nobelium, have stolen sensitive email data, exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s cloud services. This campaign’s scale and sophistication have raised significant concerns about cybersecurity defenses and the ongoing threat posed by state-sponsored hacking groups. Microsoft is working to mitigate the attack’s effects and enhance security measures, while affected organizations are urged to review their security protocols and monitor for further breaches.