Interfor International‘s Weekly Security Digest - June 25, 2024

Interfor International‘s Weekly Security Digest – June 25, 2024

Global Security Matters

International Affairs

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un signed a mutual defense pact, similar to NATO’s Article 5, in a potentially destabilizing move for the Korean Peninsula. Putin traveled last week to Pyongyang for the first time in nearly 25 years. During the widely publicized meeting, Putin explicitly connected his anger over western countries supplying Ukraine with military aid and his willingness to expand diplomatic and, possibly, military and technical ties with North Korea. This treaty may serve to justify weaponry for foodstuffs trade between Moscow and Pyongyang (the existence of which they have consistently denied since the invasion of Ukraine). The most likely consequence of this growing partnership is bolstering Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. Further, some regional experts have expressed concern regarding how this move will affect Pyongyang’s nuclear program. If they were to be emboldened and reinforced by Russian allies to become more aggressive on the border with South Korea, it could open a new front of regional — and likely world — conflict. 
    • Note that in the event South Korea is attacked, the US is treaty-bound to come to its defense militarily.
  • Gunmen carried out a series of terrorist attacks in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala, in Russia’s Muslim-majority Dagestan region. Militants targeted an Orthodox church, a synagogue, and a police post, resulting in the deaths of at least 15 police officers and civilians, including Orthodox priest Nikolai Kotelnikov. Social media footage captured a building on fire in Makhachkala. While the identities of the perpetrators remain unknown, it is noteworthy that Dagestan has a history of experiencing Islamist violence. These attacks come three months after the deadly ISIS-K inspired attack in Moscow, which resulted in the death of 145 concertgoers.
  • The recent Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia resulted in over 1,200 deaths due to extreme heat at the Islamic holy sites. During the week of Hajj, temperatures hit a staggering 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, while Medina saw temperatures rise to 117 degree Fahrenheit. Among the dead are pilgrims from Indonesia, India, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Malaysia, and the U.S. While the specific causes of death have not been independently verified, some nations attributed the fatalities to the extreme heat, marking a notably higher death toll compared to previous years and underlining growing fears of the effects of climate change in the Middle East.
  • US defense officials in the Red Sea suspect the Houthis launched an attack on a vessel in the Gulf of Aden, hundreds of kilometers outside of their normal range. If true, the incident marks a significant shift from their usual targets and perceived capabilities. The Houthis, supported by Iran and likely emboldened by the redeployment of the USS Eisenhower out of the Red Sea, may be ramping up attacks on shipping vessels in the region, creating more economic and military chaos for Israel and its western allies. Still, while the Houthis are suspected, no immediate claim of responsibility was made, and the region’s history of Somali pirate activity makes attribution more difficult to establish. The Houthis have consistently launched attacks on military and consumer shipping vessels with Israel, the U.S., or Britain since November 2023, leading to casualties and disruptions in shipping. Details for and a visual of attacked merchant and military vessels can be found here.

Israel – Gaza

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Rafah operation is nearing its end, with plans to shift military focus towards the northern border with Lebanon due to escalating tensions with Hezbollah. While emphasizing that the overall conflict will persist until Hamas is eliminated, Netanyahu expressed willingness to negotiate a partial agreement for the return of hostages. 
  • As tensions continue to rise in the Middle East, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin moved two aircraft carriers, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) from their posts in the Red Sea and Pacific, respectively, to the Mediterranean. This decision comes as Austin chose not to extend the Eisenhower’s deployment against Houthi strikes in the Red Sea for a third time. The Roosevelt, which deployed in January, will take over operations in the Middle East following a planned exercise in the Pacific. 
    • This move is not surprising. In October, the US moved an aircraft carrier into the Mediterranean to dissuade Hezbollah(and its sponsors in Iran) from launching its own attack on Israel. The consequences of a full-scale conflict between Israel and Hezbollah would be significant, given that Hezbollah has significantly more advanced weaponry and a stronger relationship with Tehran compared to Hamas,  Not only would the loss of life be greater, but there is much higher risk of provoking a regional war into which the US could possibly be dragged.The US is deploying military assets to deter a war it does not want, in combination with ongoing diplomatic efforts.
  • Still, even if American deterrence proves effectivethe Israeli government feels it must address domestic political concerns related to the northern border and will, on the account, make its own decisions. Northern Israel has been subject to regular Hezbollah barrages since October 9, 2023, and in recent weeks, it has significantly escalated. Tens of thousands of Israelis have been evacuated, making it not just a military question but one that is increasingly politically sensitive for PM Netanyahu. 
  • The Israel Defense Force is suspected to have killed Hamas’ fourth most senior military commander in a recent precision airstrike. The commander, Raad Saad’s, fate is unconfirmed. As the head of Hamas’s Operations Division, Saad is believed to possess extensive knowledge of the group’s rocket arsenal and tunnel infrastructure. This attack is at least the second attempt to eliminate Saad since the start of the war.

Cyber / Defense Technology

  • CDK Global, a major provider of software for auto dealerships across the U.S., has been hit by a series of cyberattacks, causing significant disruptions. The attacks have led to a shutdown of CDK’s systems, affecting around 15,000 dealerships that rely on its software for sales, payroll, inventory, and other operations. The initial attack began on Tuesday evening, and despite some services being restored briefly, another attack on Wednesday night forced a further shutdown. Dealerships have resorted to manual methods like pen and paper to continue operations, but many transactions have halted. CDK is working with third-party experts to resolve the issue, but there is no clear timeline for when systems will be fully operational again.