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25 Mar 22. On 25 March, Houthi drones struck Aramco’s North Jeddah Bulk Plant Facility in Jeddah causing a large fire at the depot. The facility is approximately 11 km (7 miles) east of the F1 Street Circuit, currently set to host the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this Sunday, 27 March. The fire has been brought under control and there were no casualties. Additional strikes have been reportedly directed towards other Aramco facilities in Jizan and Najran. Missile and drone attacks also targeted water tanks in Dhahran al Janub and an electric substation in Samtah, though damage was limited.
- The strike in Jeddah appears to be centred at the same fuel depot targeted on 20 March by the Iran-backed group (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 21 March 2022). The North Jeddah Bulk Plant stores fuel used domestically, accounting for over a quarter of all of the Kingdom’s stock and supports regional desalination projects. This underlines the elevated threat posed by the Houthi’s multi-front cross-border attacks to business assets and personnel in the region despite Saudi Arabia’s air-defence systems.
- Over this past week, Yemen’s Houthi have launched missile and drone strikes at several critical infrastructure targets in the Kingdom’s southern provinces. These include a liquified natural gas plant in the Red Sea port of Yanbu, a water desalination plant in Al-Shaqeeq on the Red Sea coast, oil facilities in Jizan and a southern power station. The recent strikes signal a possible return to targeting of critical infrastructure in major cities, which have previously coincided with upticks in conflict in Yemen.
- The barrage comes after the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) invited Yemen’s warring parties for peace talks in Riyadh, an offer that was dismissed by the Houthis on the grounds that Saudi Arabia could not be a neutral mediatory party. Attempts by both sides to secure military advantage in order to improve their negotiating position and hold talks on their terms will continue to frustrate progress towards peace, driving frequent spikes in hostility between Coalition forces and the Houthis.
The attack has already caused significant transport disruption, with flights in and out of Jeddah International Airport diverted due to the fire. The threat of further travel disruption, as well as threats to the physical security of flight passengers, will endure through the coming weeks as the Houthis will likely conduct further attacks both to compel Coalition forces to pursue talks on Houthi terms and in response to spikes in the conflict.
While oil exports are unlikely to be significantly affected by the attack, the short-term operational disruption will exacerbate the global price hike and affect Saudi supply in the coming days and weeks. Additionally, the Houthi targeting of oil infrastructure may dampen the confidence of oil-sector investors and broader investment, particularly due to the possibility of unexpected supply reductions, amid a volatile regional security environment.
While the group has previously threated to target high-profile events, such as the 2020 Expo in Dubai, the Kingdom maintains strong defensive capabilities. This will mitigate risks to the F1 Grand Prix which is currently scheduled to proceed this Sunday, particularly as security will be elevated due to concerns over the impact a successful targeting would have on the reputation of Riyadh’s security and business environment. Nonetheless, the proximity of critical infrastructure to soft sites in cities like Jeddah, will sustain threats to bystanders.
In the longer term the successes of the latest attacks, which demonstrated the increasing precision of Houthi airborne strikes, will likely embolden the Tehran-backed group to escalate its targeting of critical infrastructure and civilians in Coalition-affiliated jurisdictions in order to maximise associated disruption. The subsequent intensification of violence will sustain conflict through the coming months, elevating physical security risks to both assets and staff operating in the region. Businesses in the oil sector will be most at risk, with the targeting of critical infrastructure threatening the movement of product, pipeline security and storage facilities. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Mar 22. On 27 March, a national referendum will be held in Uruguay to decide whether to repeal parts of the Law of Urgent Consideration (LUC), an omnibus legislation passed in 2020. The LUC has 476 articles, 135 of which will be put to the referendum.
- The LUC is the flagship legislative reform package promised by the centre-right coalition government led by President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou. Its approval was a major political victory for the Lacalle Pou administration after it assumed power in 2020. But the main leftist opposition Frente Amplio (FA) coalition and local trade unions continue to oppose some of the reforms and successfully campaigned in favour of putting these to a referendum.
- Whilst the referendum is on the LUC, it has been characterised as a midterm referendum on the Lacalle Pou administration ahead of the 2024 general election. Defeat in the referendum will significantly weaken Lacalle Pou and the ruling coalition. Lacalle Pou himself has admitted that the partial repeal of the LUC would seriously undermine his government. This has led to both the ruling coalition and the FA staging intense and polarising campaigns ahead of the vote.
- Public security and labour rights are the top issues being considered in the referendum. LUC reforms allow the government to disperse protests if these affect free movement; and give workers the right to enter workplaces and continue working if they wish during union strikes or in the event of picket lines. The LUC also created the Strategic Intelligence State Secretariat, a new government intelligence agency that has the power to gather information on individuals without the need for court orders. Critics say that some of the LUC reforms are unconstitutional, that they violate the separation of powers and give undue power to the executive branch. The unions and the United Nations argue that some of the changes introduced are not in line with international human rights standards and limit the right to peaceful protest.
- The final opinion poll by Opción Consultores, released this week, still gives the ‘No’ vote a small lead of four percentage points (45 percent to 41 percent). However, this is down from seven percentage points (48 percent to 41 percent) in the previous poll in February as the number of undecided voters increased from 11 percent to 14 percent.
Undecided voters will determine the outcome of the referendum. But President Lacalle Pou’s popularity may play an important role in a victory of the ‘No’ vote; he is the most popular president since Uruguay’s return to democracy in 1980.
A referendum defeat will would undermine the Lacalle Pou administration and weaken the ruling coalition. Some parties are likely to abandon the coalition if the LUC- a joint coalition initiative – is repealed, significantly increasing government stability risks. It would also politically strengthen the FA and the unions.
A ‘No’ victory will empower the Lacalle Pou administration. It would likely take advantage of this political boon to advance the next major yet controversial item on its agenda- social security reform.
There have been demonstrations both in favour and against the LUC in the run-up to the referendum. A ‘No’ victory will likely lead to an increase in protest action by Uruguay’s powerful unions in the weeks following the referendum. The unions are likely to resort to strikes and protest marches in the capital and other major urban centres. Protests could turn violent if police use force to disperse protesters, increasing the risk of unrest. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Mar 22. Ethiopia: Truce represents opportunity for peace talks, dependent on movement of aid through Afar region. On 24 March, the Ethiopian government declared an immediate humanitarian truce to allow aid into Tigray but requested that Tigray forces withdraw from occupied areas in neighbouring regions. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) confirmed they too will commit to implementing a cessation of hostilities, although it is not yet clear if they will withdraw their forces from around Abala in the Afar region. The announcement comes as the US considers new sanctions against the Ethiopian government and likely represents an effort to restore economic support from Western states, with Ethiopia calling for the international community to support the truce. While the truce does present an opportunity for talks and the agreement of a broader ceasefire efforts to move humanitarian aid overland through Afar have been repeatedly disrupted by fighting around Abala. If the TPLF does not remove its troops and the Ethiopian government does not enforce the movement of aid from Semara, then a resumption of fighting is likely. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Mar 22. Solomon Islands: Proposed Chinese security pact increases regional tensions and risk of domestic unrest. On 25 March, the Solomon Islands government confirmed that it was in the process of signing off on a number of security agreements with Beijing to “create a secure and safe environment for local and foreign investments”. The agreements would potentially allow Chinese troops to be deployed to the Solomon Islands. While a similar security agreement with Australia signed in 2017 would remain in place, both Canberra and Wellington voiced their concerns about the developments amidst the growing influence of Beijing in the Pacific. Last year’s violent riots which caused significant damage and disruption in the capital of Honiara, prompting New Zealand and Australian police to be deployed, was partially motivated by anger over the government’s relationship with Beijing from residents of the Malaita region. As a result of the most recent development, the prospect of similar unrest occurring remains high, with Chinese associated businesses and personnel a potential target for protestors. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Mar 22. China-Taiwan: Leaked autumn invasion plan deemed fake; invasion highly unlikely in the short-term. On 24 March, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Chen Ming-tong labelled a Chinese autumn invasion attempt “highly unlikely”. His statement followed the ‘leak’ of an alleged Russian intelligence report stating China would invade Taiwan to secure Xi Jinping’s re-election in October, with Chen dismissing the document as a ‘cognitive warfare’ attempt. This is plausible given that there are currently no uncertainties over Xi’s re-election. While cross-Strait tensions have risen following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, currently an invasion would be too risky, with potential failure likely to undermine Chinese Communist Party (CCP) legitimacy and rule. Moreover, an invasion would contradict current Chinese diplomatic efforts to amend the blowback incurred from its alignment with Russia, including the threat of sanctions. Given current geopolitical dynamics, therefore, the risks of an invasion will remain low in the short-term for the risks far outweigh the perceived benefits. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Mar 22. Russia: Further UK and US sanctions set to increase international isolation of key sectors. On 24 March, the UK and the US announced additional sanctions on Moscow, with Washington imposing sanctions on more than 400 entities and individuals, including 48 Russian defence companies and the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament. Meanwhile, the UK will introduce 65 new sanctions on business elites and strategic industries. Among the sanctioned parties are six additional banks including state-controlled Gazprombank, the world’s largest diamond producer Alrosa, Russian Railways and the private military contractor Wagner Group. The new measures aim to cut off entire sectors of the economy, heightening Russia’s international isolation. The new measures came as the Moscow Stock Exchange partially resumed trading, though Russian financial markets will likely be unable to stabilise in the near term. Meanwhile, G7 leaders will focus on closing loopholes in existing measures in the coming weeks before implementing further sanctions, in a bid to prevent Russia from circumventing restrictions. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Mar 22. Brazil: Supreme court approves criminal investigation into minister, driving unrest and government stability risks. On 24 March, Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) approved the Attorney General’s request to open a criminal investigation into Education Minister Milton Ribeiro over influence peddling. Audio recordings of Ribeiro stating that the federal government prioritises distributing federal funds to municipalities governed by evangelicals were leaked by several media outlets. The scandal comes as President Jair Bolsonaro attempts to consolidate the backing of evangelical voters ahead of the 2 October general election. Bolsonaro is currently trailing in voting intention polls behind leftist former president Lula Da Silva. Latest polls showed support for Bolsonaro rising by 4 percentage points to 26% to Lula’s 43%, down by 5 percentage points. Retaining evangelical support is key for Bolsonaro, if he has any chance of winning a second-round run-off. But the scandal will likely increase public discontent with the Bolsonaro administration and put pressure on Ribeiro to resign, increasing government stability and domestic unrest risks. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Mar 22. Peru: Approval of controversial Las Bambas copper mine expansion escalates unrest. On 24 March, Chinese mining firm MMG said it had secured the approval from the Peruvian government to expand its Las Bambas copper mine, located in Peru’s southern Apurímac region. The expansion is expected to increase copper production from around 380,000 tonnes to 400,000 tonnes per year. Since the mine started operations in 2016, Las Bambas has been a flashpoint for protests and blockades by local communities who object to its operations, complaining that owners have failed to provide them jobs and appropriate compensation for the pollution and damage the mine causes to crops and surrounding areas. The latest decision will further increase tensions with the local communities, driving hostility towards foreign mining firms in Peru. Moreover, it is likely that the decision will escalate the already growing activism against the extractive sector, heightening unrest risks in the coming days and weeks, which may turn violent if police attempt to forcefully clear blockades or protesters. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Mar 22. UAE: Interpol chief probe elevates rights abuses scrutiny and reputational risks in the Emirates. French prosecutors have opened a preliminary probe into Interpol chief and Emirati national Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi who was appointed in November 2021. Allegations relate to his involvement in the alleged torture and abuse of prisoners whilst an official within the UAE’s ministry of interior. While the Interpol role has been largely described as ceremonial in nature, the probe will elevate brand image risks for the international policing body, as well as for the Emirates. The probe will renew the spotlight on the UAE’s alleged human rights abuses, amid accusations that it has already used Interpol’s red notice system to persecute political dissidents. Ultimately, criticism over the UAE’s alleged human rights violations elevates reputational risks for investors, particularly Western, as their inability to align human rights standards with ESG principles threatens to negatively impact the country’s economic diversification and modernisation strategy. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Mar 22. Egypt: Planned protests face harsh security response; violent clashes will heighten bystander. Nationwide protests are set to take place on 25 March amid a notable long-term decline in living standards heightened by spiralling food costs, inflation and currency depreciation over past weeks. As such, anti-government sentiment continues to grow, particularly among the country’s poor and middle-class, despite government efforts to implement fiscal measures aimed at alleviating severe economic pressures. Reports indicate that demonstrations are likely to take place after Friday prayers at 13:00 local time (11:00 GMT) and after Egypt’s World Cup 2022 playoff match with Senegal, at 21:30 local time (19:30 GMT). President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s intolerance towards political and civil dissent will underpin the government’s likely harsh security response, with security forces having reportedly already bolstered their presence at major squares. Protests in major urban centres are likely to generate overland travel disruptions, with possible clashes between demonstrators and security forces elevating bystander risks. (Source: Sibylline)
24 Mar 22. Nigeria: Government makes gains against jihadists but ISWAP threat endures. On 23 March, military officials claimed that at least 7,000 members of Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) have surrendered over the past week. In recent months the Nigerian army has adopted a more aggressive approach to combating jihadists in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno State. Nigeria’s current offensive is making greater use of A-29 Super Tucano aircrafts – which it began taking deliveries of from the US in July 2021 – to conduct airstrikes on jihadist camps, conduct surveillance to identify targets and coordinate attacks with ground forces. This has enabled the Nigerian military to make some gains on jihadist positions around Lake Chad, reducing threats to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. However, ISWAP in particular continues to present a key threat in the region with reports that its numbers are being bolstered by the relocation of some IS forces from Mali where they have come under increased pressure from al-Qaeda aligned JNIM. (Source: Sibylline)
24 Mar 22. Uganda: Attack will prompt greater military intervention, disrupting overland movement and elevating threat of human rights abuses. On 23 March, military officials confirmed that unidentified gunmen killed three geologists from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and two of their security detail in Moroto district, in the north-eastern Karamoja region on 21 March. The region suffers from high levels of insecurity driven by cattle raiding and intercommunal conflict. A disarmament initiative was launched in July 2021, but violence has continued, as Covid-19 and disruption caused by the development of the local extractives industry has increased tensions. The recent attack will likely prompt further military intervention, with President Yoweri Museveni’s son stating “we are coming and hell is coming with us”. An increased military presence will increase disruption to overland movement, with increased checkpoints disrupting supply chains for businesses working in the region’s extractive sector. Military intervention will likely also prompt further human rights abuses, impacting the brand image of businesses perceived to have benefited from the intervention. (Source: Sibylline)
24 Mar 22. N. Korea fires possible ICBM at full capability for first time since 2017. North Korea fired what is thought to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) toward the sea off its east coast on Thursday, militaries in South Korea and Japan said, in what would be the first full-capability launch of the nuclear-armed state’s largest missiles since 2017.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had detected the launch of an “unidentified projectile” from North Korea. It said the launch was assumed to be a long-range missile, possibly an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired on a “lofted” trajectory high into space, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korea’s Ministry of Defense did not immediately confirm whether the test involved an ICBM. North Korea has not tested such missiles at full range or capability since 2017.
Japan’s coast guard also said the launch could be a ballistic missile, adding that the projectile was expected to land inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) about 50 minutes after its launch was first reported.
On March 16, North Korea launched a suspected missile that appeared to explode shortly after liftoff over Pyongyang, South Korea’s military said, amid reports that the nuclear-armed North was seeking to test-fire its largest missile yet.
The United States and South Korea have warned in recent weeks that North Korea may be preparing to test-fire an ICBM at full range for the first time since 2017.
U.S. officials have said that at least two recent tests, on Feb. 27 and March 5, featured North Korea’s largest ICBM system yet, the Hwasong-17.
“The purpose of these tests, which did not demonstrate ICBM range, was likely to evaluate this new system before conducting a test at full range in the future, potentially disguised as a space launch,” a U.S. official said at the time.
Pyongyang did not identify the missile system used in those launches, but said they were testing components for a reconnaissance satellite system. Leader Kim Jong Un said this month that North Korea would soon launch multiple satellites to monitor military movements by the United States and its allies.
Thursday’s launch would be at least the 13th ballistic missile test fired by North Korea this year, an unprecedented frequency that has drawn condemnation from the United States, South Korea and Japan. (Source: Reuters)
23 Mar 22. Pakistan showcased its latest defense equipment at its annual Pakistan Day Parade on Wednesday, highlighting ongoing efforts to maintain a credible conventional deterrent against India.
One notable element of the parade including aerial displays, which this year began with an F-16C Block 52 escorted by a pair of newly inducted Chinese J-10C Firebird fighters. Three Firebird fighters from an initial order of 25 are believed to be in Pakistan.
Kaiser Tufail, an analyst who previously flew the F-16 during his military career, thinks the Firebird was a good choice for the Pakistan Air Force.
“The J-10, being in the class of the F-16C Block 52 in terms of range and weapons payload, it was the obvious choice for adding to the numbers of PAF’s [fourth-generation-plus] fighters,” he said.
However, he added, “any acquisition from [the United States] under the current ‘cold’ relationship was neither possible nor feasible.”
He also believes the acquisition was an “appropriate response” to India’s Rafale purchase. Although Pakistan has historically been a committed French customer, the high costs of that country’s hardware encouraged Islamabad to look to Beijing, “an old and trusted friend.”
He also said the J-10C and Rafale are comparable due to the former’s active electronically scanned array radar and PL-15 beyond visual range air-to-air missile.
“While the radar and [beyond visual range] missile capabilities of the Rafale and J-10 are highly classified, it is fair to say that they have broadly similar capabilities,” he noted. “With no possibility of [the Pakistan Air Force] being able to upgrade its [advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles] to the longer-ranged versions, the PL-15 is considered the right antidote to the Rafale’s Meteor.”
The Firebird is also a high-end complement to the more numerous JF-17 jets.
“The J-10 is by no means a substitute to the JF-17, as it is in a different class altogether. With more range and weapons payload, the J-10 forms the ‘high’ end of the high-low mix, with the JF-17 workhorse performing the bulk of ‘routine’ operations. Both types can also be perfectly ‘paired,’ as both share many avionics, data link and [electronic warfare] capabilities,” Tufail explained.
Other new equipment showcased during the parade included the Chinese-supplied SH-15 155mm truck-mounted howitzer and HQ-9P long-range air defense system, as well as the indigenous Shahpar-2 combat drone.
The SH-15 has a maximum reported firing range of about 53 kilometers, making it Pakistan’s longest-range tube artillery system, and helping the country standardize on a single caliber along with its U.S.-supplied M109 and M198 howitzers.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think tank that tracks arms sales, has not listed the HQ-9P in Pakistan’s inventory, and the Asian nation has not officially confirmed its acceptance into the military. SIPRI does, however, list the CH-3.
Raja Khan, who leads drone-maker Integrated Dynamics, previously told Defense News the Burraq was locally developed based on the configuration of a 1970s kit plane designed by Burt Rutan. China helped rig the finished product with missiles, but then copied and exported it as the CH-3.
The Shahpar-2 is a larger and more heavily armed combat UAV based on the same design lineage.
Despite Pakistan’s ability to domestically develop UAVs, the country still purchases Chinese and Turkish drones. None were on display.
The parade was witnessed by foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, who are attending a conference in Islamabad.
Pakistan was commemorating March 23, 1940, when the Muslim leadership in the eastern city of Lahore demanded independence from British rule.
In his speech, Pakistani President Arif Alvi called for making the 57-member organization more effective by forming unity among Muslim countries. He said that Pakistan was a peace-loving country.
“We will never make any compromise on our sovereignty,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
24 Mar 22. Australian Government earmarks $875m for nationwide ADF base upgrades. Military bases across the country are set to benefit from a major investment in infrastructure upgrades as part of the Commonwealth government’s latest pre-election commitment.
The Commonwealth government has announced it would invest $875m in 2022-23 for upgrades and sustainment activities at ports, barracks, airfields, working accommodation, training areas and communication stations across the country.
The investment, which forms part of the Defence Estate Works Program, will support a total of 234 projects, including:
- 79 projects in NSW worth $298m;
- 41 in Queensland worth $166m;
- 34 in the Northern Territory worth $112m;
- 29 in Victoria worth $122m;
- 28 in South Australia worth $106m; and
- 23 in Western Australia worth $71m.
In announcing this latest $875 m pledge at RAAF Base Pearce in Perth — which comes just days after $244 m was committed for upgrades to RAAF Base Curtin — Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said it represents the biggest investment in the Estate Works Program since the contract began in 2014, adding it would support the $38 billion push to expand the Australian Defence Force by 30 per cent over the next 18 years.
“The Defence estate is an important national asset and is an integral part of enabling Defence to meet its force capabilities,” Minister Dutton said.
“Just weeks ago, we announced our plans to grow the size of the ADF across all the Army, Royal Australian Navy and Air Force, and we know that if we are to attract additional personnel, we need to ensure our facilities are safe and fit for purpose.”
This nationwide overhaul of defence infrastructure also follows a visit from a US delegation, led by US Indo-Pacific Command’s Director for Logistics and Engineering, Brigadier General Jered Helwig, which has toured bases and facilities in Australia to advance commitments announced following the Australian-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) 2021.
These included the establishment of combined logistics, sustainment, and maintenance enterprise to support high end warfighting and combined military operations in the region.
This latest $875 m commitment is tipped to generate approximately 1,660 jobs, with a focus on creating employment opportunities for local communities.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the works would create unique opportunities for local defence contractors.
“These facilities are often in regional parts of Australia, meaning small and medium businesses in these areas get the chance to play a vital role in the upgrade and maintenance of our Defence facilities,” Minister Price said.
“For many of these businesses, winning work on these projects will result in new jobs being created.
“With our $270bn investment in Australia’s defence capability, we are going to continue to drive job growth for years to come.”
The projects are scheduled to be released via AusTender in the coming months.
This is the latest of a number of pre-election Defence announcements from the Commonwealth government.
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $4.3bn investment in the development of the first large-vessel dry docking facility at Henderson Shipyard in Western Australia, and a pledge to construct a new east coast naval base. (Source: Defence Connect)
23 Mar 22. “Rampant corruption and organised crime” still inherent in Mozambique – report. A hundred plus page report by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime (GITOC) finds, among others, factors which led to the insurgency in northern Mozambique five years ago are still in evidence today as a multi-national force battles to contain ASWJ (Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah) insurgents.
The report titled “Insurgency, illicit markets and corruption” with the sub-title “The Cabo Delgado conflict and its regional implications” is the outcome of four peoples’ efforts and research on the southern African hotspot. It was sponsored by Germany’s Hanns Seidel Foundation.
The authors note as one of six key takeaways factors behind the start of the ASWJ insurgency in 2017 including the breakdown in governance and delivery of government services, socio-economic exclusion, rampant corruption and organised crime, elite capture of resources as well as ethnic and religious divides are still to be found in the northern part of the southern African country.
They also point out the insurgency is “evolving”.
“While Rwandan and Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervention helped Mozambican forces recapture territory, the conflict continues, resurged in parts of Cabo Delgado and spread to other provinces. Insurgents re-established their connection with Islamic State, as suggested by IS propaganda around recent attacks,” the GITOC report states.
Trafficking, mainly drugs but also arms, ammunition and to a lesser extent, people and the routes used by traffickers in northern Mozambique are “resilient” and “adapted to the new security situation”. This saw routes move from areas where insurgents hold territory and “conflict is most intense”. The report gives the example of drug trafficking where routes moved south to and through southern Cabo Delgado and Nampula away from conflict hotspots.
The report has it Islamist extremist networks in South Africa are not widespread and do not appear to have many links to the northern Mozambique insurgency with the rider it could change. This can occur if the “regional threat changes” because South Africa’s” key institutions to monitor and prosecute extremism are weak”.
The report makes four recommendations for regional bloc SADC. They are: to collaborate on regional threats and improve intelligence-sharing; assist Mozambique with its humanitarian crisis as well as support the country to change “security force culture and management” to improve the civil/military relationship. The authors suggest SADC “act as a regional watchdog for human rights abuses, transparency and corruption”.
The Mozambican government is urged to tackle corruption drivers, ensure stability and “improve trust between state and local populations” by, as an example, bringing local civil society and community leaders into governance roles. President Filipe Nyusi should “professionalise law enforcement agencies into organisations that protect and serve all citizens” with reforms focussing on improving trust between the local population and the state.
As far as involvement of the wider international community in Mozambique is concerned, the report wants a focus on support processes that strengthen local governance systems and build institutions resilient to corruption, are more transparent and expose and prosecute all human rights abuses.
It wants continued bi- and multilateral support to military and police training missions embedded in a joint strategy to strengthen leadership and professionalism.
“Preconditions must include a clear commitment by the Mozambican government to reform the security cluster toward professional, effective and service oriented law enforcement agencies.”
Mozambican civil society is not left out of report’s recommendations and has “a critical role”. This includes ongoing monitoring, reporting on human rights abuses and conducting research in “challenging circumstances and at great personal risk”. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
23 Mar 22. Somalia: Further Attacks On Halane District Likely Ahead Of Polls.
At approximately 1130 hours, at least two al-Shabaab operatives breached the Banadir Camp within the fortified Halane district, killing two security personnel with small arms and injuring a dog handler before being neutralised by security forces. The assailants set fire to a facility within the camp and reportedly detonated grenades, but there is currently no evidence of further explosives on the site. Due to the camp’s proximity to the international airport, flights were temporarily suspended.
Although the Banadir Camp is currently leased by an international landmine and explosives clearance firm, the facility was more likely targeted due to its comparatively low security and location within the Halane district, which is close enough to important international facilities to raise concern. Despite sitting just to the southeast of the Aden International Airport and opposite the DFS camp (which frequently hosts international expats and lies within a kilometre of numerous international embassies), access to Banadir is controlled only by a knife barrier and two armed guards.
The assailants arrived outside the facility in a Toyota Saloon before attacking the facility on foot. They are believed to have entered the Halane district through the Marina Gate, which is at the eastern edge of the Halane district (see Figure 1). Security around the gate is elevated and normally travellers are subjected to significant checks; however, the attackers reportedly bypassed this system by disguising themselves as members of the Somalian Armed Forces. This underlines a relatively high degree of planning around the attack, which may have been coordinated with unconfirmed mortar fire against the UN compound on the western side of Halane.
The incident comes amid elevated efforts by al-Shabaab to exploit high levels of political instability in Somalia. Legislative elections, initially scheduled for December 2020, have been repeatedly delayed amid widespread concerns about electoral manipulation by both supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. With legislative polls still not completed, the presidential election is delayed, driving tensions over the extension of Mohamed’s tenure beyond its constitutional limit. With previous presidential elections taking place within the international airport, al-Shabaab likely hopes to utilise the attacks to maximise security concerns and further disrupt the election process.
Al-Shabaab will likely conduct further attacks against security and government targets in the coming weeks, particularly with reports that some Somalian officials believe sufficient legislators have been elected to secure quorum and hold the presidential election in April. Further attempted attacks within the Halane district are likely as al-Shabaab attempts to maximise disputes over where elections and associated events should be organised.
As with the Banadir Camp attack, al-Shabaab will likely select targets based on accessibility over strategic value, underlining the importance of strong security protocols around facility perimeters over the coming weeks. However, facilities with higher levels of external security still face a high threat of indirect fire attacks. This makes it challenging for NGOs and international personnel to operate around the UN compound, which is vulnerable to such attacks from the north. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Mar 22. Babcock and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) sign a Memorandum of Understanding in Republic of Korea. Babcock, the aerospace, defence, and security company, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with one of Korea’s largest shipyards Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) to collaborate on systems integration programmes for future vessels. This follows the MoU signing between Babcock and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in June 2021 to focus on the South Korean Navy’s future light aircraft carrier project opportunity, CVX. Babcock’s established in-country business Babcock Korea, in the Republic of Korea, brings a wealth of global experience in through-life programme support from concept, to design and build, to ongoing operational support of naval assets in the Republic of Korea and its South East Asian allies. Babcock Korea has firmly reinforced its commitment to the Republic of Korea and its support to the Korean Ministry of National Defence (MND) through investment in an assembly, maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Busan, where Babcock Korea currently assembles equipment for a growing number of Republic of Korea naval programmes.
Clinton Bixter, Director of Babcock Korea, signed the MoU on behalf of Babcock with Mr Jung from DSME and supported by the British Ambassador at DSME’s office in Seoul. The MoU’s recognise the current partnerships for system integration and collaboration on defence expertise for both surface and subsurface fleet in the Republic of Korea, and looks to expand our partnerships into the future.
John Howie, Babcock Group’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer said: “We are delighted to be able to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with DSME in support of international opportunities. Working alongside our CVX partner HHI, we will combine our experience across design and build and technology integration to build innovative systems integration solutions for vessels above and below the waterline.
“Through our growing in-country business, continued long-term investment in our facility in Busan and collaboration with key partners both in Korea and internationally, Babcock is committed to supporting Korean industry in delivering systems integration solutions for the Republic of Korea. We look forward to continuing to work closely with all stakeholders and partners involved in this effort.”
W.S Jung, Sales Director for DSME Special ship division have stated: “Through cooperation with Babcock, we shall secure core technology required for fleet business and do our utmost to build the cutting edge fleet required by ROKN.”
21 Mar 22. On 20 March, the speaker of the National Assembly confirmed the house will convene on 25 March for a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan will face a coalition of opposition parties known as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), who are seeking to remove him from office.
- Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds the largest share of seats at 155 and Khan needs a simple majority of 172 to remain in power. Despite his claims that he has the support of his coalition partners, several lawmakers from parties allied with the PTI opened talks last week with the PDM, which claims it has the numbers needed to win the vote. Khan also faces dissent from within the PTI party, however, the Supreme Court has ruled that an MP cannot vote against their party. Consequently, Khan’s coalition partners’ votes will be the deciding factor on the vote outcome.
- The Pakistan military holds significant sway over domestic political affairs but has publicly claimed a “neutral stance” on the issue. However, local media have reported that four of the senior-most Pakistan Army generals, including Army Chief Gen Qamar Jawed Bajwa, have privately told Khan to step down after the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference on 22-23 March.
- The situation has driven significant activity from both Khan supporters and detractors. Approximately 30-40 PTI supporters stormed the government office of Sindh House on 18 March to protest against PTI dissenters residing inside. This led to counter-protests outside the Press Club of Pakistan by the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party. Furthermore, Khan has called for a “million man” rally in Islamabad to show support for him on 27 March. While the opposition alliance has also said it will hold mass protests in the capital as part of their ongoing “long march” to remove Khan from power.
Security forces are on high alert with officials stating that 2,500 rangers, 2,000 frontier corps personnel, and 8,000 policemen are being deployed to the area in Islamabad which holds government and military premises, known as the ‘Red Zone’ (see figure 1 below), until 2 April. Disruptions are anticipated as the Red Zone also remains closed to the public from 21-24 March and the Islamabad police have announced that “short-term unannounced diversions may be observed at Srinagar Highway, Murree Road, and Islamabad Expressway”.
Important complexes within the red zone include:
- Parliament House (National Assembly and Senate Houses)
- President House
- Prime Minister House
- National Library of Pakistan
- Diplomatic Enclave (houses 43 embassies and high commissions)
- Supreme Court of Pakistan
As supporters of both the PTI and the PDM remain motivated to defy police curfews on gatherings and protests, the heavy security response and violent clashes between supporters of both factions that are likely in the coming days raise the risk to bystanders. Overall, the risk of domestic unrest remains significantly elevated until at least early April, with potential flashpoints including a delay or blocking of the no-confidence motion, the refusal of Khan to accept the motion’s result, as well as the removal of Khan.
In case Khan is removed from the government, there will be significant uncertainty regarding future political leadership with general elections not having to be held until October 2023. Local media speculates that Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PMLN) Shehbaz Sharif could become interim prime minister. However, considering the economic turmoil Pakistan is currently facing with inflation soaring, any new government will be responsible for unpopular decisions in the coming months, which will complicate the process of forming an interim government. Such domestic political instability will further reduce foreign investor confidence and damage socio-economic health with the Pakistani rupee already falling in recent days. (Source: Sibylline)
21 Mar 22. India creates unified flight control system integration facility. India is centralising the integration and development of its flight control systems to help quicken the pace of development of avionics and hardware for a new range of unmanned and manned military aircraft.
Speaking to Janes, the chairperson of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Dr G Satheesh Reddy, said that the development of avionics and hardware is scattered across various manufacturers and research centres in India. These will be unified at the new Flight Control System (FCS) integration facility.
The seven-story technical facility, with a plinth area of 39,600 m 2 , is located at DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) in Bangalore.
“From the development of avionics, software, and simulation training to the pilots of combat aircraft, everything will be taken up at this facility,” Dr Satheesh said.
DRDO officials added that the facility will develop and certify flight control systems for Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark II and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). (Source: Janes)
15 Mar 22. Ukraine conflict: US sharpens focus on bolstering Taiwan asymmetric capability. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has intensified US efforts to ensure it is supporting Taiwan’s requirement to acquire ‘asymmetric’ capabilities to respond to any similar military offensive by China.
US government officials have told Janes that military sales to Taiwan in recent years have increasingly been focused on building the island’s asymmetric capability and that war in Ukraine has highlighted the value of such assistance.
Other senior US government officials underscored in a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing the requirement for Washington to further strengthen its asymmetric support of Taiwan, which Beijing views as a province and not as a sovereign state.
A spokesperson for the US Department of Defense (DoD) told Janes that the US is increasingly concerned about China’s “destabilising” and growing military activities near Taiwan. These include near-daily Chinese military aircraft incursions into Taiwan-claimed airspace and the Chinese navy’s now constant presence close to the island.
The spokesperson said the US commitment to supporting Taiwan is “rock-solid”, in line with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) 1979, through which Washington is committed to provide the island with defensive equipment.
“We have also been clear that, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States would regard any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific, and of grave concern to the United States,” said the spokesperson.
The DoD spokesperson also made reference to China’s “tacit support” for Russia’s war in Ukraine and its potentially wide implications. On 14 March it was reported that China was preparing to provide support to Russia in its war in Ukraine. “We have been clear that [China’s] tacit support for Russian aggression is alarming and represents a serious security concern for Europe,” said the DoD spokesperson.
A spokesperson from the US Department of State told Janes that under the TRA the US has authorised, since 2017, about USD18bn in Foreign Military Sales to Taiwan and Direct Commercial Sales of USD2.3bn. The spokesperson added that such sales have included asymmetric capabilities.
“The United States also supports Taiwan with training and encourages its innovative and asymmetric security posture,” the spokesperson said. This support also involves “continual dialogue” about how the US can provide Taiwan to develop “self-defence capability”.
Comparing Russia’s invasion in Ukraine with any Chinese offensive against Taiwan, the US State Department spokesperson said, “These are very different contingencies, though the utility of unit-level tactical fires such as Stinger [manportable air-defence systems] and Javelin [anti-tank systems] is obvious. We’ve also seen the immense value that our alliances and partnerships bring to bear, and which magnify and multiply our global security capabilities.”
In comments to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 10 March, Jessica Lewis, the US State Department’s assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the importance to the US of providing more asymmetric capabilities to Taiwan to help the island prepare for a potential invasion from China.
Defining asymmetric capability, Lewis said, “It needs to be cost-effective, mobile, resilient, and decentralised defensive systems. We have seen these used to great effect in Ukraine. We are looking [at] ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems, short-range air-defence systems, naval sea mines, and coastal defence and cruise missiles.”
Mara Karlin, US assistant secretary of defence for strategy, plans, and capabilities, added that the US and Taiwan have been holding “very regular consultations” to assess the island’s defence requirements.
Karlin added in the hearing, “I think the situation we’re seeing in Ukraine right now is a very worthwhile case study for [Taiwan]… about why Taiwan needs to do all it can to build asymmetric capabilities, to get its population ready, so that it can be ready as quickly as possible should China choose to violate its sovereignty.” (Source: Janes)
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