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29 Apr 22. China-Solomon Islands Security Cooperation Agreement.
After much media speculation and diplomatic concerns, Beijing and Honiara finally confirmed the signing of a “Security Cooperation Agreement” last week. Although neither government has disclosed the content of the agreement, a draft leaked in March revealed the extent of proposed close cooperation on security and defence affairs, including the possibility of deploying Chinese police and armed forces, as well as military assets to the Pacific island nation. The move has raised concerns amongst other key stakeholders in the region, with Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Japan all voicing strong opposition to the pact. Foreign diplomatic attempts to dissuade Honiara from signing the agreement were to no avail.
This week, join our Lead Asia-Pacific Analyst, Dr Guo Yu, and fellow APAC analysts Riccardo Cociani and Aédán Mordecai, as we discuss the details of this agreement and its geopolitical implications for the region and beyond. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Apr 22. Egypt’s president calls for listing of army-owned companies this year. Cairo targets partial sale on stock exchange to address economic fallout from war in Ukraine. Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the partial privatisation of state assets would aim to raise $10bn every year for four years. Egypt’s president has called for stakes in army-owned companies to be sold on the stock exchange before the end of the year, as part of efforts to address the economic fallout of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also announced plans for greater private sector participation in state-owned companies in a speech on Tuesday night. The government had previously said it would sell minority stakes in 23 state companies and list army-owned companies on the stock exchange, but progress has been slow. Economic pressures arising from the war in Ukraine appear to have provided a new sense of urgency to implement the proposals. The conflict forced the country to devalue its currency by 15 per cent in March and to seek support from the IMF. “Expediting these measures now and Sisi’s repeated mention of the private sector in his speech and his stress on the need to revamp the stock exchange and make it attractive means these plans are aimed at dealing with the fallout from the war,” said Wael Ziada, managing partner of investment bank Zilla Capital. Sisi said the partial privatisation of state assets would aim to raise $10bn every year for four years. The military owns dozens of companies in a range of sectors from food production and education to industry and real estate. Some analysts and business people have previously argued that the military’s widening footprint in the economy had held back some private and foreign investors because of concerns over competition with the most powerful institution in the country. (Source: FT.com)
27 Apr 22. Iraq And Turkey: Renewed Offensive.
- Turkey’s latest offensive against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) threatens to compound existing socio-economic insecurities across communities in northern Iraq. Operation Claw-Lock will worsen the region’s security environment and heighten concerns over increasing numbers of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and their relations with host communities in southern Kurdish cities.
- Perceived tolerance by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Ankara’s military expansion into northern Iraqi territory will drive anti-government sentiment in the region. Additionally, the associated consequences of the conflict for the region’s social and political landscape will trigger criticism of the KDP’s policies and drive bouts of civil unrest.
- Inflamed tensions between opposing parties in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will exacerbate political instability in Iraq proper, threatening to delay the formation of a government and prolong the country’s political deadlock. Iraq’s state of protracted instability will negatively impact long-term foreign investment opportunities, exposing companies with government-backed contracts to reputational and regulatory risks, particularly those in the energy sector.
On 18 April, Turkey’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) confirmed the launch of a new offensive in their protracted conflict against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) named Operation Claw-Lock. This follows previous operations named Operation Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle headed by the Turkish government throughout 2020, which preceded an intensification of fighting towards the end of 2021. Statistics show that during late 2021 an average of 209 conflict-related incidents occurred per month across northern Iraq and Turkish border areas.
The Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar noted that current conflict zones are primarily in northern Iraq’s Zab, Avasheen, Basian and Metina regions in the Duhok Governorate. The ministry further confirmed the “neutralisation” of at least 19 PKK soldiers and the death of Turkish Lieutenant Commander Omer Dilbash in the first hours of fighting, with more fatalities in recent days. As with previous operations, strikes and raids have primarily been airborne, however, the expansion of conflict zones and Turkish military bases across northern Iraqi territory has implicated several political actors with a long-term diplomatic solution remaining unlikely in the near term.
An increasingly volatile security environment in northern Iraq will exacerbate existing socio-economic grievances
Whilst the Turkish MOD officially announced a new stage of fighting in mid-April, there has been a considerable uptick in the frequency of cross-border attacks since October 2021. Despite the lull in fighting between February and March, due to winter conditions, authorities recognise that the conflict has now entered what looks like a prolonged phase of high intensity. The increase in fighting will likely remain concentrated in northern Iraqi and Syrian bordering areas, with Turkish fighter jets seeking to destroy entities which are believed to be military bases and strategic centres of the PKK. Notably, Turkish local media reports suggest that PKK militants have established a sizable operational base in Iraq’s Sinjar District in the Nineveh Governorate. The expansion of PKK presence into areas beyond their primary zones of activity will expand the overall conflict theatre, further deterring refugees or IDPs, particularly ethnic minorities including Yazidi, from returning due to concerns of persecution and oppression.
Deteriorations in the security environment in northern Iraq will not only deter IDPs from repatriating but will also threaten to increase the number of refugees across the region. As the conflict expands into new fronts of northern Iraq, rural communities will face greater collateral damage from either the direct or secondary impacts of military offensives, namely shrapnel and the risk of miscalculation. In recent months, farmers in remote areas of northern Iraq have been killed in cross-border strikes or have seen their crops decimated by fires ignited during ground offensives. Such volatility may force some communities to migrate towards southern provinces in the Kurdistan region, such as Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Halabja, compounding existing socio-economic difficulties. In tandem, it is possible that host communities become hostile towards IDPs, over fears of resource and economic competition given the region’s worsening financial environment.
Furthermore, any significant worsening of northern Iraq’s security environment threatens to deter visitors and foreign businesses from establishing centres in the wider region. This will both hamper efforts to bolster foreign direct investment opportunities and threaten around USD 11 bn in projects agreed with the Kurdistan Region’s Board of Investment since July 2019. Whilst the Duhok Governorate has long been considered a high-risk area for personnel and foreigners, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah’s security status has not yet warranted the same level of travel security procedure, with businesses currently enjoying a greater degree of freedom compared with Baghdad and surrounding areas. Therefore, inflamed diplomatic tensions between the Erbil-based Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and PKK leaders, coupled with the possible widening of conflict fronts, threatens to increase the overall bystander risk for personnel and trigger reputational concerns, particularly for entities with government-backed contracts. Any subsequent exodus of companies and foreign investment from the region due to an increasingly volatile operational environment will undermine efforts to guarantee long-term economic recovery, particularly as the region continues to reel from the financial fallouts associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Renewed conflict threatens to inflame low-level tensions in the KRG and compound Iraq’s wider political instabilities
New theatres of conflict also threaten to raise political tensions in the KRG, inflaming existing low-level tensions between the KDP and the opposing Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Relations between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of the KDP are often the source of criticism by Bafel Talabani of the PUK, with Barzani’s recent visit to Turkey in April, days before the launch of the new offensive, representing a flashpoint for further friction. Turkish government sources maintain that the leaders discussed enhanced bilateral energy and trade cooperation, namely intensifying gas exports and the establishment of a permanent natural gas pipeline between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). Consequently, the PUK’s ousted co-President, Lahur Talabani, publicly condemned the KDP’s “appeasement to neighbouring countries” at the expense of the Kurdish people, driving the KDP’s overall policy risk.
Therefore, the KDP’s perceived tolerance of renewed fighting and failure to address the consequences of an extended conflict zone will drive public dissent and anti-government sentiments. The IKR is considered one of the most corrupt regions in the wider Middle East, with ruling families and their associates often personally benefitting from unregulated and undisclosed foreign export contracts. Grievances associated with institutional corruption often trigger protest activity, with worsening socio-economic conditions and the KRG’s perceived failure to provide access to basic services or financial support elevating domestic instability.
Increased tensions between elites in the KRG will compound Iraq’s wider political insecurities, further complicating government formation efforts and the likelihood of a long-lasting parliament. Following contentious elections in October 2021, Iraq’s wider political environment remains critically unstable, with Muqtada al-Sadr’s majority Shia bloc unable to form a coalition due to vetoes and blocking rights by opposing parties, primarily Iran-aligned. Greater hostilities between the KDP and PUK will represent another obstacle to ending Iraq’s current political deadlock, as they failed to nominate a joint candidate for presidency increasing the probability of parliamentary boycotts similar to those seen in May 2019. Iraq’s deepening government instability increases policy risk concerns, threatening to negatively impact investor confidence in areas such as the oil and gas sector and delaying negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the provision of third-party financial support.
In the short term, conflict zones will likely remain confined to remote northern Iraqi territory in the Duhok Governorate, where civilian casualties will predominantly stem from miscalculation or second-order impacts. However, the expansion of fighting is possible in the coming months, as PKK militants seek to establish additional military bases and strategic centres beyond known training camps in the Qandil mountains which have been detected by Turkey’s accomplished Bayraktar TB2 drones. For instance, the PKK’s alleged movement in Sinjar represents another theatre of the conflict, implicating more communities and possibly resulting in a greater number of IDPs across the IKR.
Moreover, escalations in fighting threaten to worsen the region’s overall socio-economic and political landscape. Displaced populations will face considerable financial struggles as host communities face greater resource and economic competition, triggering protest activity and domestic unrest. In tandem, a worsening security environment will heighten alert levels for businesses, resulting in the possible evacuation of personnel from the area and dampening of investor confidence. Whilst this is currently limited to the Duhok area, the widening of conflict zones and the subsequent deterioration of domestic stability represent regulatory and operational risks.
Finally, inflamed tensions between leaders in the KRG threaten to prolong Iraq’s wider political instability, likely preventing the formation of a durable and stable government in the coming weeks. The KDP’s transactional relationship with Turkey will continue to threaten the KRG’s fragile alliance, with issues related to the provisions of oil and gas representing major sticking points. Namely, divisions in the IKR will compound Iraq’s entrenched political paralysis and weak security situation, hindering the country’s ability to address socio-economic concerns and civil unrest. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Nigeria: Threats Of IED Attacks.
- Claimed bombing attacks by Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) likely indicate that the group has been able to solidify connections with at least one of the armed groups, known as bandits, to whom they may have provided materiel or training support.
- ISWAP is likely to replicate strategies employed in Mali and Burkina Faso to capitalise on ethno-religious tensions and bandit groups’ already established resources in the region to bolster their strength and expand their reach beyond Borno State.
- Increasing use of bandit groups will elevate indirect threats to staff in larger towns and cities, particularly around markets and religious sites for Christians.
On 22 April, ISWAP claimed responsibility for an improvised explosive device (IED) which injured 11 people at a bar in the Nukkai district of Jalingo, the capital of the central-eastern state of Taraba. The attack comes three days after an IED explosion killed at least three people and injured nine in a marketplace on 19 April in Iware in Taraba state, roughly 30 kilometres west of Jalingo, which ISWAP also claimed.
Attacks likely indicate that ISWAP has successfully solidified connections with “bandit” groups. While ISWAP has claimed these attacks in Taraba State, their forces remain concentrated primarily in the area surrounding Lake Chad, in Nigeria’s north eastern Borno State. Over recent years the group has concentrated its operational capabilities against security forces and facilities around Lake Chad to increase their freedom of movement and control over local communities. Additionally, in recent months ISWAP has come under elevated pressure from Nigerian, Nigerien and Cameroonian joint military operations. As such it is both unlikely that ISWAP would dedicate its own resources to conducting an attack in Taraba State or would be in a greater position to do so now than in previous years. Therefore it is likely that ISWAP may have used a new proxy to conduct these attacks.
Taraba State, much like many other states across northern and central Nigeria has experienced elevated levels of intercommunal violence over recent years, leading to the proliferation of an array of armed groups referred to by the government as bandits. These bandits do not have a centralised structure, and are often criminal in nature, engaged in widespread kidnap for ransom, cattle thefts and raiding. but they also act in some cases as representatives for some pastoral communities, particularly among the Fulani. In some cases their objectives exceed simple criminality, with groups pushing local authorities for financial concessions or protections and economic aid for pastoral communities in exchange for cessation of violence.
These groups are already actively engaged in combat with federal and state level authorities, and in some cases already have known connections to ISWAP. Many of these bandit groups, due to their migratory nature run major trafficking routes across the region, and as such they form a key part of the trafficking nexus exploited by ISWAP for the purchase of arms and equipment and the movement of illicit goods. As such, materiel and intelligence is exchanged between ISWAP and these bandits. This exchange may explain the rising use of explosives by bandit groups, such as in the 28 March attack on the train line between Kaduna city and Abuja, which killed at least eight people, with dozens of others kidnapped. Additionally, reports indicate that radical Islamic preachers have also been identified among some groups. These communities are also especially vulnerable to ISWAP messaging, with the expansion of bandit groups tied heavily to the militarisation of traditional conflicts over access to land and resources, and limited state support. This has exacerbated feelings of marginalisation among these communities, and enmity between themselves and the largely Christian sedentary farming populations towards the south.
As such ISWAP has been attempting to solidify these ties, likely hoping that as jihadist groups have been able to do successfully in Mali and Burkina Faso in particular, they would be able to co-opt these organisations and their objectives to increase ISWAP’s influence and recruiting base, driving expansion. Claiming these attacks in Taraba State, likely indicates that they have successfully been able to secure this connection with at least one bandit group. This objective is also reflected in the targeting of the attacks, which in both incidents hit bars or market areas where the consumption of alcohol took place, an activity associated with Christian communities. Such attacks are designed to further enflame intercommunal tensions, drive retaliatory violence and therefore enable jihadists to position themselves as protectors of marginalised communities, as has been the case in Mali and Burkina Faso.
ISWAP’s use of bandit groups as proxies will enable, and drive, further attempts by the jihadists to extend their influence across northern and central Nigeria. This will result in further attacks on civilian communities, particularly increasing the number of ideologically based attacks which appear to serve no direct financial purpose, unlike the majority of bandit operations to date. Such attacks will increase the scope of such operations outside of rural areas, where combat over land has primarily driven indirect threats to supply chains and elevated threats of kidnap or assault for staff during overland travel and for NGOs operating on rural projects.
Increasingly towns and cities may be the targets of IED attacks, particularly around government buildings, and crowded market facilities or religious sites associated with Christians, driving indirect threats to local staff. The current scope of attacks indicate that this threat is currently concentrated in Taraba state, but the migratory nature of bandit groups and the possibility that ties may be solidified with other groups will drive the threat of such attacks across northern and central Nigeria.
More broadly, such attacks are likely to succeed in further enflaming tensions between Christian sedentary communities, and Islamic pastoralists such as the Fulani. As well as providing opportunities for jihadist recruiters to expand their organisations and increase their influence, it will also likely drive tensions around the January 2023 general election, with southern politicians likely to seek to bolster their support by taking a hard line on pastoralists. This will drive the threat of attacks on minority communities in southern and central states in particular and elevate concerns over election fraud, increasing the likelihood of protests over the election period. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Apr 22. Israel – Syria: Uptick in cross-border strikes reflects heightened regional tensions; low-level strikes likely to continue, Early on 27 April, today, Israel’s Defence Forces (IDF) launched several surface-to-surface missiles, successfully striking targets in Damascus as confirmed by the Syrian Ministry of Defence. At the time of writing, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that at least nine individuals were killed, including five Syrian soldiers, with a state-owned news agency reporting that further missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defence systems. Though indiscriminate missile exchanges are commonplace, recent developments represent an uptick in the frequency of retaliatory cross-border assaults, as part of Israeli efforts to target Iran-backed militia groups located in Syrian border areas. For instance, two of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps officers were killed during an Israeli bomb strike in Damascus on 9 March, warranting retaliatory strikes on Israeli targets. Ultimately, inflamed diplomatic tensions between Israel and Iran will continue to drive sporadic attacks in border areas, however, mutually limited military capabilities will likely contain assaults to low-level tit-for-tat hostilities. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Armenia: Anti-government protests underline enduring threat of Nagorno-Karabakh issue driving unrest. Armenian opposition on 25 April announced the start of a permanent street protest against policies related to Nagorno-Karabakh. In particular, two opposition parliamentary factions accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of pushing a “flawed policy of surrendering territories”, calling for Armenia’s defence capabilities to be strengthened instead. The development follows peace talks between Baku and Yerevan in Brussels earlier this month, which resulted in the easing of tensions following ceasefire violations in the disputed region. Despite, the opposition’s calls for protests, it is uncertain at this stage whether they will manage to galvanise enough support to result in meaningful street action capable of undermining the current political order. Nevertheless, discussions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh will remain the main trigger of domestic unrest, particularly as Russia remains pre-occupied in Ukraine, limiting its capacity to serve as the traditional mediator on the issue. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Israel – Lebanon: Cross-border exchanges underline regional instability; unlikely to result in large-scale escalations. On 25 April, Israel’s Iron Dome defensive system failed to intercept a projectile, reportedly launched from the Lebanese border, which hit unpopulated land causing no injuries or damage. In response, Israeli military forces shelled a location in southern Lebanon believed to be the rocket launch pad. Cross-border exchanges on the Israel-Lebanese border are relatively uncommon but follow weeks of escalations in the Palestinian Territories, with recent developments representing the spill-over effects from wider regional instability. Remote southern Lebanese border areas are considered a hotspot for Palestinian militant groups, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, with Lebanon’s domestic instability undermining the overall security environment. Moreover, further ethno-religious tensions across the West Bank and Gaza Strip will sustain the likelihood of tit-for-tat hostilities and cross-border flare-ups, however, strikes are likely to remain retaliatory and will not result in a larger-scale conflict. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Ethiopia: Failure to deliver food aid regularly will drive resumption in conflict. On 25 April, a spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group claimed that all TPLF forces have now withdrawn from the neighbouring Afar region. Following the launch of the government’s humanitarian truce on 24 March (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 25 March 2022), deliveries of humanitarian aid to Tigray, where around 90 percent of the population needs food aid, have been limited. The Afar regional government and aligned militia have so far held up deliveries due to the TPLF’s continued occupation of the territory. As such, the latest development could allow more regular deliveries, increasing the likelihood of peace talks. However, Afar militias have disputed claims that the TPLF have completely withdrawn, potentially resulting in further delays to food deliveries. If this is the case, the TPLF have threatened that they may be forced to seek alternative means to break the siege, prompting a resurgence in violence in northern Ethiopia in the coming weeks. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Sudan: Armed clashes in El Geneina underlines spread of violence across West Darfur. On 25 April, armed clashes broke out in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, where the city’s main hospital was attacked and four people were killed. Previously, fighting broke out between Arab nomads and Masalit farmers in the West Darfur town of Kereneinik on 21 April, after alleged former rebel elements belonging to the Sudanese Alliance Movement killed two Arab herders. The spread of violence to West Darfur’s larger cities, underlines the elevated impact of intercommunal tensions in the region, threatening to undermine peace efforts and drive a wider resumption of violence with rebel groups still in talks with the government. This will not only threaten NGOs actively working in rural communities, but also will drive indirect threats to business staff visiting larger cities in the region and supply chains linked to the region’s oil and mineral sectors. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Sri Lanka: Protests and transport disruptions to continue despite attempts to curb president’s power. On 25 April, opposition lawmakers claimed they held the majority needed to pass a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa unless he stepped down. However, Mahinda has not given an indication he would step aside, while such a move is in any case unlikely to satisfy protesters demanding the removal of both Rajapaksa brothers who are Prime Minister and President respectively. Similarly, while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa may allow an amendment to the constitution that reduces his power and creates a more equitable balance between the executive and legislature, it is unlikely to be enough to ease unrest. With anti-government protests continuing, the Railway Trade Union Alliance will go ahead with its 24-hour strike scheduled to start from midnight 27 April. Furthermore, the head of Sri Lanka’s Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has also threatened a country wide strike next week, sustaining threats of disruption to supply chains and transport systems. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Singapore: Significant easing in restrictions boosts socio-economic health and reduces compliance requirements for firms. On 26 April, Singapore lowered its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) to the second lowest warning level of ‘yellow’ for the first time since February 2020, while also easing a number of Covid containment measures. The cap on gatherings as well as capacity limits for events were lifted, while all employees are now permitted to return to their offices. The use of the TraceTogether and SafeEntry apps will be reduced, while vaccinated travellers will no longer need proof of a pre-departure Covid test to enter Singapore. Some more minor restrictions remain however, with masks still required in many indoor settings and vaccines needed to attend large events or food and beverage (F&B) establishments, though F&B establishments will no longer be responsible for enforcing such requirements. The restrictions will ease the compliance responsibilities for firms, and with 96 percent of the population vaccinated and the health system managing recent outbreaks, it is unlikely that restrictions will be reimplemented for the foreseeable future. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Indonesia: Palm oil export ban to enhance threats to regional food supply chains and socio-economic health. According to a presentation between government and industry officials on 25 April, Indonesia may widen its export ban of refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) palm olein if faced with further disruptions to domestic cooking oil production. Last week, Indonesia announced it would stop exporting palm oil, later specified to include only RBD olein from 28 April indefinitely to lower costs. The ban followed domestic protests over political uncertainties and rising cooking oil prices (see Daily Analytical Update – 22 April 2022), highlighting a tense domestic climate. While the ban seeks to amend immediate domestic concerns, the regional and global impact on food supply chains will likely endure in the medium-term. Moreover, the ban will worsen prospects of increasing food inflation with edible oil supplies already undermined by the Russo-Ukrainian war and unsuitable weather. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Kazakhstan: Reopening of CPC terminal will increase oil production, but remains vulnerable to further disruption. On 25 April, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) announced that it had repaired a buoy mooring device used for loading oil at the Russian Black Sea Novorossiysk terminal, ending one month of operational inactivity after a storm caused infrastructural damage. A recent bout of good weather expedited repairs, after discussions between Kazakh Energy Minister Bolat Akchulakov and CPC chief executive Nikolai Gorban on 18 April addressed commercial and technical issues. As such, the CPC pipeline, through which Kazakhstan exports more than two-thirds of its oil to Europe, has resumed operating at full capacity. This is likely to provide a boost to Mediterranean supplies, Kazakh energy export revenues, and investor confidence in the coming weeks. However, the ongoing lack of viable alternative oil export routes will sustain Kazakhstan’s dependence on the Russian-controlled pipeline, leaving CPC pipeline export volumes vulnerable to further disruptions in the coming months due to Novorossiysk’s proximity to the war in Ukraine. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Peru: Constitutional redrafting proposal signals rising institutional tensions; sustains protest risk. On 25 April, the Peruvian government led by Pedro Castillo submitted a proposal to Congress to hold a national referendum on whether to convene a constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution. The proposal comes amid a deep political crisis and signs of public unrest, which have severely hindered Castillo’s popularity and weakened the government’s stability. While the opposition-controlled Congress is unlikely to approve the initiative and deny Castillo a potential boost in public support, rejection of the proposal could further weaken Congress’ already-low popularity given public support for amending the constitution. The initiative highlights the underlying zero-sum political game which will likely deepen the current political crisis, fuelling further unrest and policy risks over the next two years. The ruling Perú Libre party will likely call for demonstrations to pressure Congress to approve the proposal, heightening institutional tensions, although protests are unlikely to turn violent or to cause major traffic disruptions. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Apr 22. Taiwan says Ukraine conflict will inform this year’s military drills. Taiwan’s main military drills this year will draw on the experiences of the war in Ukraine, focusing on asymmetric and cognitive warfare as well as use of reserves as it practices fighting off a Chinese attack, a top officer said on Wednesday.
Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has raised its alert level since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, wary that Beijing might make a similar move on the island, though it has reported no signs this is about to happen.
What lessons to learn from the war has been widely debated in Taiwan, and discussed with the United States, according to Taiwan’s defence minister. read more
Lin Wen-huang, head of the Taiwan defence ministry’s joint operations department, said this year’s Han Kuang exercises, which simulate a Chinese invasion and are Taiwan’s largest annual war games, would “draw on the experience” of the Ukraine war.
“Of course, we will keep a close watch on the Russia-Ukraine war and the movements of the Chinese Communist’s military, and will carry out exercises,” he told reporters. “Taking into account the lessons of the Russia-Ukraine war, the military will continue to forge ahead on improving the use of asymmetric warfare, cognitive warfare, information and electronic warfare operations, and use of reserves and full strength of the nation.”
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a “special operation” to degrade its military capabilities and root out what it calls dangerous nationalists. Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.
Taiwan has been reforming its reserves to make them more combat effective, a task given more urgency by the Ukraine war. read more
Cognitive warfare refers to how information can affect morale, something Taiwan says it already faces from China, while asymmetric warfare is about deploying highly mobile and sometimes low-tech weapons that are hard to destroy and can deliver precision attacks.
The United States, Taipei’s most important international backer and arms supplier, has also been watching the strategic fallout for Taiwan from the Ukraine war, and considering how the island should prepare itself for an invasion by China.
Matthew Pottinger, deputy national security advisor during the Trump administration, told a forum organised by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that Taiwan needs to follow in Ukraine’s footsteps in terms of training snipers and making improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
“And there’s a lot more that the United States should be doing on the ground in Taiwan,” he said, according to a transcript published on Tuesday. “I don’t care if they’re wearing U.S. uniforms or not. They can show up in shower shoes and flip flops and Hawaiian shirts for all I care. They need to be on the ground intensively helping train Taiwan.”
The United States already helps train Taiwanese military personnel, though it is rarely publicised. A small number of U.S. forces are in Taiwan to train with Taiwanese soldiers, President Tsai Ing-wen said in an interview with CNN in October. read more
China has dismissed any comparisons between Ukraine and Taiwan, saying that Taiwan is a part of China and not an independent country.
China has been stepping up its military pressure against Taiwan over the past two years or so.
Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Reuters)
26 Apr 22. Chile: Truck drivers’ strike will likely remain limited, only affecting some roads in northern Chile. On 25 April, a group of truck drivers declared a strike and blocked several major roads in the north of Chile. However, key truck drivers’ unions refused to join the protest, reducing the potential impact of the action. The protesters demand improved security guarantees and more governmental fuel subsidies as the surge in petrol prices continues to reduce profit margins. More drivers will likely join the protest, potentially affecting supply chains links with Bolivia and Peru. While additional fuel subsidies remain unlikely, the administration led by President Gabriel Boric will likely redouble its efforts to curb irregular migration, as this has been linked to growing insecurity in northern Chile. Protests could lead to violent clashes with security forces and will likely involve a xenophobic element towards Venezuelan migrants, increasing physical threats to foreign staff. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Apr 22. Algeria: Government reluctance to recognise union coalition elevates likelihood of clashes during nationwide strikes. Public sector union leaders have called for a two-day strike on 26 and 27 April to demand wage increases amid rising living costs and inflation rates. In anticipation of the strike action, 29 civil service unions have formed a coalition to present a united front against President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s government. The coalition is inclusive of members of the National Education, Religious Affairs, Tax, and Local Administration unions, who seek financial support for up to 2.7 m civil servants in Algeria. However, a warning from the Ministry of Labour stated that the coalition is unconstitutional and unrecognised, pre-empting a heavy-handed approach from security forces to curb the movement, consistent with enhanced government repression against civil society in recent months. As such, there is to be a heightened security presence in urban centres, elevating the threat to bystanders in the event of violent clashes with police forces. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Apr 22. French defence group Thales charged over 2002 submarines deal with Malaysia. French multinational company Thales that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for the aerospace, defence, transportation and security markets has been charged with complicity in bribery over a 2002 sale of submarines to Malaysia.
Citing sources close to the inquiry, AFP reported on Tuesday (April 26) that the long-running case investigating alleged kickbacks was opened in 2010 and eventually caught up with former Malaysian prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Najib was the defence minister when the deal was signed to buy two Scorpene-class submarines and one Agosta submarine from French naval dockyard unit DCN, now part of Thales, in a deal worth US$1.2 bn.
Najib’s close associate Abdul Razak Baginda allegedly acted as an adviser on the deal, and was accused of disguising the kickback of more than €114 m as “consulting work” by a firm in which he was the largest shareholder.
The money was then said to have been given to Najib, who has faced a series of graft cases since he was voted out as Malaysia’s prime minister in 2018.
Razak Baginda was charged in France in 2017, while Najib has been questioned by Malaysian anti-graft investigators.
AFP said that in total nine defendants, including Thales, have been charged in France and the investigations were closed in January 2022.
Thales told AFP it strongly contests these allegations. (Source: Google/https://www.theedgemarkets.com/)
26 Apr 22. North Korea: Novel malware attacks will pose an enduring threat to human rights and media organisations as Pyongyang cracks down on intelligence leaks. On 25 April, industry reports claimed that North Korean hackers were attacking journalists across the globe with a novel malware variant. This threat actor – known as APT 37 or Reaper – is targeting its victims with the malware strain Goldbackdoor, which allows it to engage in activities such as keylogging or files exfiltration. These attacks have been launched against news organisations specialised in North Korea, with NK News, which utilises sources in North Korea, having been targeted on several separate occasions throughout 2022. While the campaign’s objective is unclear, its targets’ profiles indicate that it may be aimed at exfiltrating information that could help identify these entities’ North Korea-based sources. Such an objective would be consistent with previously detected Reaper operations, which attempted to destroy evidence or intimidate reporters not to publish stories that contradict Pyongyang’s official propaganda. With the leaking of sensitive information by in-country sources likely to remain a major concern for Pyongyang, there is a heightened risk of further such novel attacks being launched in the coming months. Organisations involved in North Korean human rights or media coverage will be at the highest risk for such activity. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Apr 22. President Ramaphosa extends Op Vikela until April 2023. South African military personnel and materiel will be in northern Mozambique until mid-April next year in support of what President Cyril Ramaphosa writes is “a South African international obligation towards [the] Southern African Development (SADC) community”.
This is per a letter from Ramaphosa, also Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), to National Assembly (NA) Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula dated 14 April.
South Africa’s first citizen uses the letter to inform the country’s elected public representatives the “employment” of 1 495 SANDF members is extended for a further 12 month period at a cost of R2 794 649 682.
Questioning the R2 bn plus expenditure, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais said it was “mind-boggling” when viewed against the financial situation of Minister Thandi Modise’s major responsibility. He pointed to overspend of “a similar amount” on salaries, shortfalls on maintenance and “absence of capex acquisitions” as reasons why the commitment of R2.7 bn from the defence budget should not have been done without additional funding.
Earlier this month, General Rudzani Maphwanya, SANDF Chief, told the media SADC as a region is funding the SAMIM deployment; part of it is covered by its peace fund. The SADC Secretariat worked out modalities for each participating nation to bring resources and some form of disbursement is currently being looked at.
The extension comes after Ramaphosa told the country via its public representatives in the NA and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) by way of correspondence with Mapisa-Nqakula in February that he was keeping 1 495 SANDF personnel in the east African country until 15 April. The South Africans are part of the eight-nation SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) taking on “violent extremists” in Cabo Delgado. South Africa has been part of SAMIM since it was operationalised last July. The initial three month “employment” (used in Presidential letters/minutes to describe activation of national defence force elements) was extended by a further three months in October, making the latest extension the fourth.
In addition to SADC members Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia contributing to SAMIM, a thousand strong contingent from Rwanda is also in Mozambique fighting Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) and affiliates in the country’s northern province.
An SADC Extraordinary Summit of the Organ Troika of the Heads of State and Government in Pretoria earlier this month approved SAMIM’s “transit” from its Scenario Six status to Scenario Five. Scenario Six is, in part, described as an “intervention for example, in genocide situations where the international community does not act promptly” and the continental body terms Scenario Five as “a peacekeeping force for complex multi-dimensional peacekeeping missions, including those involving low-level spoilers”.
A Parliamentary Communication Services statement, dated 22 April, has it the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) “considered” three Presidential letters regarding military deployments without going into detail. They were for the Indian Ocean anti-piracy tasking Operation Copper, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) peacekeeping (Operation Mistral) as part of MONUSCO and Operation Vikela combatting terrorism and violent extremism in northern Mozambique. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
25 Apr 22. Mali-Burkina Faso: Continued deterioration in security will likely drive protests. On 24 April, the al-Qaeda aligned Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) killed at least 15 soldiers and six civilians in three simultaneous vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks across Mali and Burkina Faso. Attacks were launched against military camps in Sevare in Mali’s central Mopti region, and across the border in Gaskinde and Pobe Mengao both in Burkina Faso’s northern Sahel region. The attacks underline JNIM’s ability to operate freely and coordinate operation across the Malian and Burkinabe border. With European forces now withdrawing from Mali, and unable to operate in the same areas as the Russian military contractors Wagner group, international efforts to counter such operations will diminish, increasing the rate of attacks. As both military governments in Mali and Burkina Faso are justifying their necessity on improving security, further such attacks threaten to undermine popular support for the juntas, elevating the threat of protests in major cities over the coming months. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Apr 22. Sudan: Lack of oversight over government aligned militia raises threats of intercommunal violence. On 24 April, local NGOs confirmed that at least 168 people have been killed in violence between Arab nomads and Masalit farmers in the western Darfur town of Kereneinik that broke out on 21 April. Conflict began as retaliatory violence after alleged former rebel elements belonging to the Sudanese Alliance Movement killed two Arab herders. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia, which are controlled by Hamdan Dagalo, deputy of the ruling Sovereignty Council, also attacked Masalit farmers. With the military having broken its government agreement with civilians, Dagalo’s RSF face minimal scrutiny or government oversight, driving abuses and intercommunal violence across southern regions. This will undermine peace agreements with rebel groups, slowing their implementation and driving sporadic bouts of violence. Military deployments to the region to contain violence may also increase frictions between the military and the RSF, threatening government stability. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Apr 22. Democratic Republic of Congo: Availability of vaccines likely to reduce threat of significant Ebola spread. On 23 April, the National Institute of Biomedical Research confirmed a new case of Ebola haemorrhagic fever had been detected in Mbandaka city in the country’s western Equateur province. The 31 year old man began to experience symptoms on 5 April, but was only admitted to an Ebola treatment centre on 21 April where he died. Operations to contain the disease have begun in Mbandaka, although efforts are likely to be challenged by the delayed containment of the virus and the nature of the city as a crowded trading hub. However, the last outbreak of Ebola in the country in October underlined the effectiveness of authorities and health workers in rolling out vaccines and containing the virus. The availability of the vaccine and medicines to treat the virus should reduce both lethality and the risk of significant spread of the disease. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Apr 22. Pakistan: March to Islamabad will drive significant supply chain disruption. On 23 April, Imran Khan asked his supporters to prepare for a long march for “true freedom” demanding the new Shehbaz Sharif government call for early elections. Khan is yet to announce a route or date for the rally, however he claims that “a sea of people will converge on Islamabad”. The march will most likely be held after the month of Ramadan, ending on 1 May, and will likely involve a march across cities to Islamabad. Thousands of people frequently turn out to Khan’s rallies, causing significant transport disruptions including road closures. As such, similar disruptions to logistical and supply chains are likely. Khan’s rallies to date have been largely peaceful but heightened security measures will likely be implemented in Islamabad in anticipation of any incidents, raising the threat of clashes and scale of transport disruptions within the city. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Apr 22. China: Persistent Covid-19 outbreak despite zero-case strategy will induce further economic disruption and social discontent. Covid-19 infections continued to rise across China as authorities struggle to suppress outbreaks in multiple locations. On 24 April, Beijing began fresh rounds of mass testing after Chaoyang district reported 26 cases. Meanwhile, Shanghai logged a record high daily death toll of 51 on 25 April, along with around 20,000 new cases. Infection levels have remained high in Shanghai despite five weeks of strict lockdown measures. Mass testing will reveal the extent of Beijing’s outbreak, with residents fear of a citywide lockdown likely to prompt panic buying, driving short-term shortages of essential goods. The persistent virus spread in several major cities will cause further disruption to economic activities, reducing foreign investment, as evidenced by a sweeping fall in Chinese stock prices. China’s zero-Covid strategy’s impact on lives and livelihoods will drive discontent among affected residents, which could lead to low-level protests and associated unrest. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Apr 22. Thailand: Attacks in Deep South highlight challenges for ongoing peace talks. On 23 April, a local government officer was killed in a shooting in the border province of Yala. While no group has taken responsibility, it follows recent attacks by insurgent groups in the restive Deep South region. Earlier on 15 April, the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO) claimed responsibility for a twin-bomb attack killing one person and injuring three police officers in Pattani province. The attack, the first known PULO attack since 2016, came despite the main regional insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) agreeing a ceasefire arrangement for the holy month of Ramadan. PULO has since stated it opposes ongoing peace talks between BRN and the Thai government over failure to consider demands for independence. The developments highlight that differences between BRN and the various splinter groups will create problems for the long-delayed peace talks. As a result, attacks against government and security targets will remain a threat in the Deep South region. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Apr 22. Nigeria: Bombing likely indicates incorporation of bandits into ISWAP, driving threats to civilians. On 22 April, an improvised explosive device (IED) injured 11 people in the Nukkai district of Jalingo, the capital of the central-eastern state of Taraba, the attack has been claimed by the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). The attack comes after an IED attack on 19 April killed at least three people and injured around 30 others, in Iware, Taraba state, around 30km west of Jalingo. This was also subsequently claimed by ISWAP. With ISWAP based in northern Borno state, it is likely that ISWAP is using a proxy, indicating that the group has successfully been able to solidify ties with at least one bandit group currently active in Taraba state (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 21 April 2022). The attack also indicates a broadening of ISWAP targeting, attacking civilians where in Borno state it focuses on military assets. This likely reflects ideological targeting, given larger Christian communities further south. Incorporation of some bandit groups into ISWAP will elevate the threat of bombings on civilian targets in towns and cities across northern and central Nigeria. (Source: Sibylline)
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