Interfor International‘s Weekly Security Digest - July 9, 2024

Interfor International‘s Weekly Security Digest – July 9, 2024

Interfor’s Weekly Digest | Global Security and Policy Insights – July 9, 2024 

Global Security Matters

International Affairs

  • The recent French elections delivered unexpected drama, with the left-wing coalition, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, winning the most seats while Emmanuel Macron’s centrists made a surprising comeback, pushing Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) into third place. Despite their success, Mélenchon’s alliance lacks the majority needed to govern alone, leading to a multilateral parliament with no bloc (party) achieving the required 289 seats.  The election saw the highest turnout for a parliamentary second round since 1997, creating barriers against RN. President Macron now faces a challenging period of instability amid this new political deadlock, with the Paris Olympics fast approaching.
  • Japan and the Philippines have signed a significant defense pact, reflecting their shared concerns over China’s growing influence and assertiveness in the region. The agreement aims to strengthen military cooperation, including joint exercises, training, and the transfer of defense equipment and technology. This partnership underscores the increasing security collaboration between the two nations as they seek to enhance their defensive capabilities and maintain stability in the face of China’s activities in the South China Sea and other initiatives. 
  • Reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian has won Iran’s presidential election, which was triggered after former president Ebrahim Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash in May. Pezeshkian defeated Saeed Jalili, a hardline conservative and former nuclear negotiator. Pezeshkian’s victory can likely be attributed to an increase in voter turnout from round one of the vote to last Friday’s runoff. Pezeshkian’s election signals multifaceted dissatisfaction with the status quo Iran, principally a weak economy and increased repression of women and minority groups. 
    • The fact that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei allowed Pezeshkian to be elected likely indicates his recognition that public discontent with the regime has reached unprecedented levels and that Pezeshkian as president will have a better chance at quelling that discontent than an extreme hardliner like Jalili would.
    • Moreover, Jalili would have been perceived as a Khamenei puppet, and, as such, any risky initiatives of his that failed would have been considered failures of the Supreme Leader himself. If Khamenei favors nuclear negotiations in order to obtain sanctions relief, he is best served by allowing Pezeshkian to pursue that agenda. If Pezeshkian fails, Khamenei can portray his efforts as a naive move that he advised against.
    • Altogether, it is unlikely that Pezeshkian will pursue any groundbreaking policy changes, especially early in his presidency. Whatever he personally believes regarding compulsory hijab, for example, he knows he needs to remain deferential to the Supreme Leader’s wishes in order to stay president and avoid lifelong house arrest when he leaves office(a common scenario for former presidents and presidential candidates who run afoul of the Supreme Leader). 
    • Still, it is possible that the Supreme Leader will allow Pezeshkian to pursue some kind of social reform, particularly one addressing women’s rights, in order to relieve pressure on the regime on human rights issues and enable the Islamic Republic to maintain its commitment to other controversial policies(e.g. support for proxy groups like Hezbollah and the Houthis, or continue investment in the nuclear program).
  • Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian cities have led to at least 37 deaths and 170 injuries. The attack severely damaged Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Kyiv, prompting the evacuation of over 600 patients. In Kyiv alone, 27 people, including three children, were killed. A private medical facility in the capital was also hit, resulting in seven deaths. These attacks occurred just before the NATO Summit in Washington, where increased support for Ukraine is expected to be discussed. U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the strikes and announced plans to enhance Ukraine’s air defenses.

Israel – Gaza

  • Late last week, Israeli, US, and Hamas officials signaled there may be another opening for a ceasefire/hostage release deal due to a change in language on the deal.  Hamas has dropped its key demand that a permanent ceasefire be guaranteed through all phases of the deal. This point has long been an Israeli non-negotiable and led many analysts to speculate that a deal may be possible this time. However, on Monday, PM Netanyahu’s office issued a press release laying out four non-negotiables, focused on hostage release terms and continued pressure on Hamas,for this round of talks. Netanyahu’s announcement was made just days before the beginning of the newest rounds of ceasefire talks are scheduled to begin. Israeli Mossad Chief Barnea, CIA Director Burns, Egyptian Intelligence Chief Kamel, and Qatari PM Al Thani are scheduled to meet to discuss the fine details of this proposal tomorrow. Netanyahu releasing these demands — and reportedly not consulting his own security apparatus — has led many political analysts and security officials to criticize him for being either reckless and/or politically motivated. 
    • Netanyahu’s“non-negotiables” are another signal to the right flank of his coalition that despite reported progress on a deal, he will not yield on their key demands, principally an enduring commitment to defeating Hamas. Netanyahu consistently puts statements like this out to appease his coalition members, many of whom have indicated they would withdraw their support for Netanyahu as Prime Minister if he agreed to past ceasefire proposals which they saw as too lenient on Hamas. 
  • And yet, every time Netanyahu makes such a statement, Hamas feels pressure to respond with a similarly tough message and perhaps even to dial back recent concessions made in negotiations. This has been a key source of frustration for the US, Qatar, and Egypt, all of whom have been working hard to push Hamas and Israel to a ceasefire for months.
  • An American citizen was injured in a missile attack launched by Hezbollah on northern Israel, marking a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict. The missile strike prompted a retaliatory response from the Israeli military targeting Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon. The attack highlights the risk of accidental escalation and potential international incidents as clashes between Israel and Hezbollah persist. 

Cyber / Defense Technology

  • The “RockYou2024” password leak has shattered previous records, exposing over 10 billion passwords in what is now considered the largest data breach of its kind. This leak aggregates data from multiple previous breaches into one massive database, significantly amplifying the risks for both individuals and organizations. The exposed passwords encompass a wide range of platforms and services, increasing the potential for credential-stuffing attacks, where cybercriminals use the leaked credentials to gain unauthorized access to accounts.

Atmosphere of Protest

  • Today, July 9th, the NYPD charged 19 people with civil disobedience and/or trespassing after a large group of protestors blocked the entrances of several banks in NYC this morning. The main target of the action was Citi Bank. This protest was part of a larger series of protests, coined as the Summer of Heat (SoH). SoH targets businesses and individuals seen to be involved in the sale or use of fossil fuels.