What Our Analysts Are Reading – November, 2023

Road sign directing traffic to Bab al Mandab Strait in Southwest Yemen

Navanti’s data collection and analysis are based on networks of on-the-ground researchers from all walks of life: journalists, academics, and humanitarian workers, to name a few. Our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, these analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important pieces they have read and listened to over the past month.


In META’s Q3 Adversarial Threat Report, findings are shared about three separate covert influence operations that violated META’s policy against Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior (CIB). Two of them originated in China, and one in Russia. Insights into the global threat landscape ahead of next year’s numerous elections worldwide are included, covering the latest research into deceptive activities originating in Russia, Iran, and China—the most prolific geographic sources of foreign influence operations to date. The report also addresses trends in the information environment, highlighting challenges posed by generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) that META is actively working to tackle alongside governments, researchers, and industry peers. New CIB networks disrupted in Q3’2023 include the removal of 13 accounts and seven groups in China targeting primarily India and the Tibet region, as well as the United States. Another network in China, involving 4,789 Facebook accounts targeting the United States and posing as Americans across various platforms to discuss US politics and US-China relations, was removed. These actions were part of META’s internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the respective regions.


In the latest Regional Economic Outlook by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the economic recovery in Europe is underscored by a crucial boost from rising wages and increased incomes. The report points out that as workers in Europe, after two years of falling purchasing power, push for higher pay, nominal wages have risen by 4.5 percent in the euro area and over 10 percent in other European regions in the first half of this year. However, challenges arise in countries facing a shrinking workforce due to population aging, where short-term wage pressures combined with longer-term labor market tightness may stoke inflationary pressures. The IMF emphasizes the importance of improved productivity and tight macroeconomic policies to afford higher wages without fueling inflation. The report delves into varying wage growth patterns across Europe, urging policymakers to navigate the delicate balance between aiding economic recovery and addressing stubbornly high inflation. It calls for structural reforms to boost productivity, addressing factors such as labor supply, job transitions, skill development, and migrant worker integration.

The authors of the paper titled “Northern Mali: A Conflict with No Victors” elucidate the causes and implications of the recent resurgence in conflict between Wagner-backed state forces and a coalition of armed groups in northern Mali. The withdrawal of MINUSMA from Mali laid bare long-standing tensions between the two sides as they contended for control of MINUSMA’s abandoned bases and, more broadly, for dominance in northern Mali. With the breakdown of the 2015 Algiers Accord, Mali faces the risk of reverting to the security dynamics of 2012, presenting no clear path to peace. Additionally, the escalation introduces the concerning element of violent extremist groups that could exploit the conflict between the government and the coalition to their advantage. The authors advocate for mediation through either an extension of MINUSMA’s mandate or the issuance of a new mandate by the African Union.


ACLED data reveals a notable surge in cross-border violence between Ukraine and Russia from May to October 2023, coinciding with the ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive. This escalation has resulted in increasingly deadly conflict incidents within Russia, impacting both civilians and the Russian military. Despite attempts by the Russian government to downplay the war’s spillover effects, local authorities, particularly in border regions, are grappling with the challenges posed by cross-border attacks. Notably, Ukrainian drone attacks have seen a significant uptick since May 2023, penetrating deeper into Russian territory and causing substantial damage to Russia’s reputation, military assets, and infrastructure. The recent mutiny within the Wagner Group has underscored the Russian state’s struggle to maintain control internally, yet it may have simultaneously rallied support around President Vladimir Putin within the establishment. However, resistance to the invasion persists within Russia, as evidenced by ongoing attacks on military enlistment offices and rail infrastructure. This resistance continues despite the government’s crackdown on opposition and protest activities. The evolving dynamics suggest a complex and multifaceted situation within Russia, with both internal challenges and external conflicts shaping the trajectory of events.

Violent Extremist Organizations

As conflicts rage in Ukraine and Israel/Palestine, IISS published a Strategic Comment last week shedding light on an another, underreported area of simmering geopolitical tension: Algeria and Morocco. According to the piece, members of the Algerian defense establishment believe that the two long-time rivals may be closer to war now than they have been in the last 30 years. In amongst the two powers’ broadly conflicting political, ideological, and foreign policy outlooks, the key source of the current tensions is Western Sahara. Algeria backs the Western Saharan independence movement and perceives Morocco as an occupier, while Morocco accuses Algiers of inciting the violence of the Polisario Front that resumed its armed campaign against the Rabat government in 2020. Disagreements over the operation of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline often add further fuel to the fire, especially with Algeria emerging as a key energy producer for a Europe turning away from Russian gas supplies. In all, IISS assess that any conflict would put the US and EU in a deeply challenging position, as both countries have cards to play to garner Western support; Morocco has close political ties to both Brussels and Washington and is strategically located on the Straits of Gibraltar, while Algeria controls the taps to its globally significant gas reserves. With political chaos and violence surging across North Africa and the Sahel, the descent of two bastions of relative stability into conflict would cause significant headaches for American and European policy makers.


Mohammed Albasha, a senior Middle East analyst with  Navanti Group, shared insights with various press outlets regarding Houthi-led attacks on Israeli interests. France 24 quoted him, emphasizing that the Houthi group actively engages in regional conflicts to pursue strategic objectives, particularly seeking political influence in Yemen and the broader region. Albasha highlighted the Houthis’ desire for recognition and legitimacy as a significant player, noting that their attacks serve to galvanize and mobilize domestic support.

Albasha identified the Red Sea as a potential area of escalation, crucial for global trade, especially the transportation of Middle East oil via the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean and beyond. He warned that the Houthis have the capability to deploy sea mines, conduct armed ship seizures, employ anti-ship missiles, or disrupt crude oil exports.

Regarding maritime threats, Albasha suggested that the Houthis might consider using water-borne improved drones to target Israeli vessels in the Red Sea or ships bound for the Israeli port of Eilat. There is also concern that a Houthi missile causing unintended significant damage in Saudi Arabia could escalate tensions and potentially reignite the war in Yemen. Albasha emphasized the heightened risks involved, stating that if a Houthi missile or drone inadvertently harms Saudi nationals or targets vital installations while seemingly aiming at Israel, the Saudis might feel compelled to retaliate.

Albasha also highlighted that Israel continues to face aerial attacks from groups across the Middle East, including Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Hezbollah in Lebanon. He stated that the US’s position at a “crossroads” as it weighs responses to the Houthi threat. He suggested that the US might be on the brink of an agreement with both the Saudis and the Houthis, leading policymakers to exercise caution regarding sanctions or military strikes. The Houthi deputy foreign minister’s recent threat to close the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the continuation of Houthi actions until Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza ends was described as the most direct threat seen from the Houthis since the war in Gaza erupted. AlBasha noted that this would further test the Biden administration’s deterrence capabilities.

Furthermore, albasha pointed out that despite statements and claims of responsibility, the Houthi rebels have not formally declared war. The internationally recognized government in Aden has criticized Israeli military actions in Gaza but has not issued a formal declaration of war either.