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29 Jul 22. Austin, Lee Discuss State of U.S.-South Korea Alliance. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III emphasized the history that South Korea and the United States share as he welcomed South Korean National Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup to the Pentagon for talks, today.
The South Korean leader visited after participating in the dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial’s Wall of Remembrance yesterday. The wall contains both the names of Americans killed during the Korean War as well as the thousands of South Korean soldiers who served as augmentees for U.S. Army units during the conflict.
The wall honors those “who fought shoulder-to-shoulder together and made the ultimate sacrifice to forge a better future for both our countries,” Austin said. “We hope to honor their service and sacrifice today by further strengthening our alliance.”
Austin stressed that the U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea is “ironclad.” North Korea remains the greatest threat to peace and stability on the peninsula, but the alliance between the United States and South Korea continues to grow. South Korea is a positive, democratic ally that is a force for peace and the international order that has fostered that peace.
North Korea has engaged in the most active period of missile tests in its history, Austin said. “Our alliance remains resolute and ready in the face of these dangerous and destabilizing actions,” he said.
He also restated President Joe Biden’s assurance that the U.S. extended deterrence commitment to South Korea that includes nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities.
Lee noted that in his first visit to the Pentagon, he was a young officer taking notes in the back of the room and that he feels tremendous responsibility being back in the Pentagon Nunn-Lugar Room as national defense minister. “I hope today’s meeting is an opportunity for us to discuss about our deterrence options of North Korean nuclear tests, and also how to respond to a North Korean threats bilaterally between the United States and the Republic of Korea,” Lee said. (Source: US DoD)
30 Jul 22. Defence head admits ‘teething problems’ in £26bn Australia warship project.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin faced scrutiny from senior military figures Down Under over the programme for nine warships.
Britain’s head of the armed forces has assured Australia that a troubled British-designed frigate project is on track despite “teething problems”.
The £26-billion-pound project which the British company BAE Systems won the Australian contract for four years ago was under renewed focus during Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin’s visit Down Under.
In an interview with the news service of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Sir Tony conceded that the UK’s parent programme was experiencing “teething problems” but insisted the joint project was on track.
“The overall programme is in a good shape, but what you inevitably see with a first-of-class, with these high-end designs… are teething problems with the first ship,” he said.
“Those are being resolved and that’s all going ahead very, very well.”
BAE Systems, the UK’s largest defence contractor, won the project to produce nine high-tech, anti-submarine frigates in 2018 after besting rival Spanish and Italian designs in a fierce competition.
The fleet of “Hunter class” global combat ships are based on the new British Type 26 warship. Production on the ships began in Adelaide in 2020 and, at the time of BAE winning the contract, were expected to enter service before 2030.
However, according to ABC News, concerns are growing over delays and technical problems with the project.
Sir Tony, who is currently in Australia for the Indo-Pacific Chiefs of Defence (CHODs) Conference in Sydney, said more visits to Australia from Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarines were likely as work continues on the Aukus project.
In November BAE Systems denied “supply chain pressures” from the pandemic had had any impact on performance or operations for 2021.
The defence giant said it had a “strong” pipeline of opportunities and stressed that there is “continued demand” for its capabilities, with defence largely resilient to the impact of the pandemic.
At the time, the contractor said it was particularly well positioned to be boosted by increased defence spending in the Asia Pacific region. (Source: News Now/Press Association)
BATTLESPACE Comment: Part of the problem is believed to surround the choice of the Australian-built CEA radar system which is heavier then designed for in the original package.
28 Jul 22. Iraq: Parliament Storming. Supporters of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed Iraq’s parliamentary building late on 27 July to protest against the increased political influence of Iran-aligned parties and militia groups. Videos posted via social media showed hundreds of demonstrators breaking through barriers in Baghdad’s international Green Zone, with the security forces using water cannons to disperse the crowds. Local media outlets report that the security forces have regained control of the building.
- Given the proximity of the parliamentary building to international embassies and Baghdad International Airport (BGW), among other establishments frequented by foreign nationals, the latest unrest highlights the risks to businesses and staff operating in the Green Zone. Although the area is heavily militarised, the use of forceful crowd-control measures did not prevent the building from being stormed.
- The unrest follows the election of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as prime minister on 25 July. Al-Sudani was elected after the establishment of a committee by the Co-ordination Framework, which comprises figures from Iran-backed groups, including the Islamic Virtue Party, the Hikmah Movement and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. Al-Sadr’s supporters continue to express concerns over the growing influence of Iran-backed parties (see Sibylline Global Weekly Update – 15 June).
- The latest developments underpin Iraq’s deepening domestic instability, which is driven by the ongoing political deadlock and foreign intervention. Al-Sadr’s supporters chanted slogans expressing their frustration over Iranian influence in Iraqi politics. These grievances are compounded by al-Sudani’s ties with the former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who maintains close links with Tehran.
- Additionally, al-Sadr called on the Iraqi government to severe ties with Turkey following the latter’s deadly attack against a tourist resort in northern Iraq on 20 July (see Sibylline Alert – 20 July 2022). Al-Sadr branded the strike as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. Further external interference will exacerbate political divisions in Iraq.
Protests in support of al-Sadr are likely to continue in Baghdad in the coming days and weeks, particularly in the city’s eastern neighbourhoods, near the Green Zone and in Tahrir Square. While protesters are unlikely to target foreign assets or personnel, any armed confrontations or violent escalations will significantly heighten the risks to bystanders. Previous clashes between the security forces and anti-government demonstrators in central Baghdad have resulted in deaths and injuries. There will also be an elevated risk of attacks targeting parliamentary buildings in the coming weeks; these have previously taken place during periods of elevated political tensions.
Despite the election of al-Sudani as prime minister, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (KUP) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) must agree on Iraq’s next president before a confidence vote is held for al-Sudani’s government. Even if both parties agree on the next president, potential intra-Kurdish divisions over al-Sudani risk delaying the government’s formation and exacerbating political instability; the KUP openly supports al-Sudani, while the KDP has yet to comment. Nevertheless, Baghdad will remain the epicentre of political instability and unrest in the short term due to competition for influence between pro- and anti-Iran groups. (Source: Sibylline)
28 Jul 22. N. Korea’s Kim says nuclear deterrent is ready, slams S. Korea’s Yoon. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country is ready to mobilise its nuclear war deterrent and counter any U.S. military clash, and criticised South Korea’s new president for the first time, warning Seoul was pushing towards the brink of war.
Kim made the remarks during a speech at an event to mark the 69th anniversary of the July 27 Korean War armistice, which left the two Koreas technically still at war, according to the official KCNA news agency on Thursday.
The confrontation with the United States posed nuclear threats since the 1950-53 war required the North to achieve an “urgent historical task” of beefing up its self defence, Kim said.
“Our armed forces are thoroughly prepared to respond to any crisis, and our nation’s nuclear war deterrence is also fully ready to mobilise its absolute strength faithfully, accurately and promptly to its mission,” he said.
The speech came after Seoul and Washington officials said Pyongyang has completed preparations to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.
South Korea’s unification minister handling inter-Korean affairs said on Tuesday there was a “possibility” of the test around the anniversary of the armistice, though a military official said there were no immediate signs for it.
North Korea is likely to face stronger sanctions including measures targeting its cyberattack capabilities if it goes ahead with the test, South Korea’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
In the speech, Kim said Washington continues “dangerous, illegal hostile acts” with South Korea against the North, and seeks to justify its behaviour by “demonising” the country.
The North has long accused the United States of double standards over military activities and pursuing a hostile policy towards Pyongyang, saying it hampers a restart of talks aimed at dismantling the country’s nuclear and missile programmes in return for sanctions relief.
“The duplex act of the United States, which is misleading all the routine actions of our armed forces as ‘provocation’ and ‘threat’ while holding large-scale joint military exercises that seriously threaten our security, is literally a robbery,” Kim said.
“That is driving bilateral relations to the point where it is difficult to turn back, into a state of conflict.”
Kim also denounced South Korea’s new conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol by name for the first time, accusing him of threatening the North’s security and right to self defence.
“Warmongers” and “disgusting thugs” in Yoon’s administration are bent on confrontational military activities, Kim said, singling out Seoul’s weapons developments and drive to bring back U.S. nuclear strategic assets as well as allied military drills.
Their “heinous confrontational policy” toward the North and “toadyish, treacherous acts” are pushing the situation to the brink of war, he said.
North Korea in recent months has tested hypersonic missiles and missiles that it says could carry tactical nuclear weapons, narrowing the time that Seoul would have to respond to a pending attack.
Yoon has vowed to complete the so-called “Kill Chain” system that calls for preemptive strikes against the North’s missiles and possibly its leadership if an imminent attack is detected.
But that system would never be able to cover the North’s “absolute weapon,” Kim said.
“If you think you can counter us militarily and preemptively neutralise or destroy part of our military power,” he said. “Such a dangerous attempt will immediately be punished by a powerful force, and Yoon Suk-yeol’s government and his army will be annihilated.”
Seoul’s defence ministry spokesman said it would continue reinforcing its own capabilities and the U.S. extended deterrence including its nuclear umbrella to better respond to Pyongyang’s threats.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Kim’s remarks seem to be intended to highlight the legitimacy for weapons developments and his “eye for eye” approach toward Washington and Seoul. (Source: Reuters)
28 Jul 22. Japan to avoid capping defence spending next year – draft document. Japan will hold off on setting a ceiling for next fiscal year’s defence spending, a draft of the government’s budget outline reviewed by Reuters showed, underscoring resolve to beef up expenditure to counter China’s growing military presence. Under the budget outline, the government will also set aside about 4.5trn yen ($33.24bn) for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s flagship policy aimed at boosting investment in areas like green innovation and digitalisation, the draft showed.
The budget outline, which serves as a guideline for ministries in submitting spending requests for next fiscal year, will be approved by cabinet on Friday.
The removal of the defence cap, which has become customary in recent years, comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing military presence in Asia have raised public awareness of geo-political risks.
The government said last month in an annual economic policy document that it wanted to drastically increase defence spending “within the next five years”, mentioning a specific time frame for the expenditure for the first time.
Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has also proposed boosting defence spending to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) within five years, from about 1%.
In the past, the government set strict ceilings for each spending item in state budgets to rein in huge public debt. That has changed in recent years as the government seeks to protect the economy from shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, the annual budget has continued to expand and may exceed this year’s 107.6trn yen in fiscal 2023 to hit a record for 11 years in a row, some analysts say.
In the fiscal 2022 budget, defence budget stood at 5.4trn yen, making up just 5% of initial outlay. Social welfare spending, by contrast, accounted for a third of total outlays due to a rapidly ageing population. Based on the budget outline approved on Friday, government ministries and agencies will submit budget requests to the finance ministry by the end of August. The finance ministry will compile the government’s draft budget in late December, which requires parliament approval to take effect. ($1 = 135.3700 yen) (Source: Google/Reuters)
27 Jul 22. Afghanistan-Uzbekistan: Diplomatic engagement with the Taliban is unlikely to mitigate Jihadist threat to border regions. During an international conference on Afghanistan held on 26 July, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev urged the Taliban to sever ties with “all international terrorist organisations” and “take decisive measures to prevent and counteract terrorism”. Mirziyoyev labelled this as a critical step for Central Asian countries to achieve “security and sustainable development”. The statement highlights Tashkent’s growing concerns and efforts to engage the Taliban on counter-terrorism issues, particularly in light of threats posed by the Afghanistan-based Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) group, following attacks on Uzbekistan’s southern border city of Termez in recent months. Tashkent’s calls represent an opportunity for the Taliban to diplomatically engage with regional governments on security issues and possibly receive limited support and recognition. Nevertheless, the Taliban’s ongoing struggle to maintain full territorial control due to the presence of hostile armed groups in Afghanistan will sustain the rising Islamist threat in Central Asia, to Uzbekistan’s border regions and consequently to company assets and personnel. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Jul 22. Colombia: Car bomb explosion targeting police station highlights increasing risk of attacks by organised crime groups. On 26 July, a car bomb exploded near a police station in the town of La Mata, in Colombia’s Cesar department, leaving at least two police officers injured. Whilst authorities have not yet identified suspects, it is very likely that it was part of a series of recent attacks against the police carried out by the Clan del Golfo criminal group. Colombia’s Conflict Analysis Resource Center (Cerac) reported that between 15 and 22 July, there were 28 violent attacks against the security forces that resulted in the killing of five police officers and one soldier. The Clan del Golfo’s so-called ‘pistol plan’ of targeting the security forces began in May in retaliation to the extradition to the US of the group’s leader, Dairo Antonio ‘Otoniel’ Úsuga (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 25 October 2021). Attacks on the security forces have left a toll of 34 officers killed and 68 injured this year. It is very likely that the attacks will continue in the coming weeks, increasing significant risk to bystanders, particularly those in the vicinity of police stations and other related buildings. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Jul 22. Argentina: Upcoming anti-government protests will cause significant localised disruption with possibility of violent unrest. Argentina’s social organisations and labour unions have called for nationwide anti-government protest marches on 27-28 July to demand a universal basic salary and more welfare programmes. The announcement of the protests follows a series of anti-government protests across the country against rising domestic inflation, which has soared to 64 percent this year. Protesters will gather in Buenos Aires on 27 July from 0900hrs at the Tribunales area, outside the Social Development Ministry, the Labour Ministry and Avenida de Mayo to march to the Plaza de Mayo and the Obelisk. The protest will very likely cause significant disruption along the protest route and is possible that it will turn violent. Protesters have also warned camps may be erected if their demands are not met. Details of the 28 July demonstrations have not been provided, yet it is likely that protests will take place in the main squares and outside government buildings in other major cities across the country. (Source: Sibylline)
28 Jul 22. Peru: New congressional leadership will likely support Castillo’s impeachment. On 27 July, Peru’s congress elected Lady Camones as its new leader amid a major corruption scandal surrounding President Pedro Castillo. Camones opposes the Castillo administration on key issues and voted in favour of one of the unsuccessful impeachment motions presented against the president. She is likely to support new attempts to impeach Castillo, who is currently the subject of an official corruption probe, elevating government instability risks. The congressional election took place one day after the former secretary of the presidential palace, Bruno Pacheco, turned himself in to the national police and claimed that Castillo had received money in exchange for positions in the armed forces. While Camones is likely to support an eventual impeachment motion, she appears to be temporarily shifting the responsibility to de-politicise the investigations to the prosecutor’s office. She has also expressed reservations about holding an early general election, declaring that many regulatory changes would have to be made for this to happen, making it unlikely. (Source: Sibylline)
28 Jul 22. Haiti: Armed clashes in Port-au-Prince likely to increase amid deepening power vacuum. On 27 July, several criminal gangs clashed across Port-au-Prince as part of an escalation in violence which began in early June. Organised criminal groups have expanded their territorial control across the city amid a deepening power vacuum. Shoot-outs between the security forces and gang members took place in the city centre, Bel Air and Cité Soleil. The clashes also stem from political power struggles, as gang leaders are known to have links to political parties. The weak political position of the acting prime minister, Ariel Henry, and his refusal to negotiate the establishment of a transitional government ahead of elections will likely widen the current power vacuum. This will further incentivise political parties to strengthen their alliances with gangs, and in turn encourage gangs to expand their territorial control. This dynamic will likely continue to elevate physical threats to assets and staff, with humanitarian workers and foreigners likely to be targeted. (Source: Sibylline)
28 Jul 22. China-Taiwan-US: Deployment of naval units near Taiwan will sustain cross-strait tensions, heightening miscalculation risks. A US aircraft carrier group is expected to approach the Taiwan Strait ahead of an expected visit by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, to Taiwan. The deployment is almost certainly aimed at deterring perceived Chinese aggression. It takes place amid the backdrop of Taiwan’s annual Han Kuang military exercise and a rise in Chinese military aerial incursions into Taiwanese airspace. These include unprecedented drone sorties near Taiwan’s eastern coast. Satellite imagery also indicates an increase in aircraft and drone deployments along China’s eastern coast. The frequency and scale of Chinese sorties near Taiwan will almost certainly increase if Pelosi’s visit is confirmed. These military deployments will sustain cross-strait and China-US tensions, heightening the risk of miscalculation and crisis-escalation. However, the risk of intentional conflict will remain low. In addition, civilian air and maritime operations will likely be affected by diverted routes and/or the closure of traffic space. (Source: Sibylline)
28 Jul 22. Mali: Expansion of jihadist attacks in southern Mali threatens to drive protests in Bamako. On 27 July, insurgents killed at least 15 soldiers and three civilians in attacks against three military camps across south-western and central Mali. The highest number of casualties was recorded in an attack against a camp in Kaloumba, near the border with Mauritania in Koulikoro region. In this incident, nine soldiers and three civilians working for a road construction company were killed. Attacks also took place against camps in Sokolo, Segou region, and Mopti town, Mopti region. The attacks were likely conducted by groups associated with the al-Qaeda-aligned Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), which is the most active group in Mopti. JNIM claimed responsibility for the recent attack against Kati military base outside the capital Bamako. Although state-aligned media continues to claim that the military is in control, public support for the junta will fall if attacks increase in frequency. This will drive protests in Bamako, which will likely result in clashes between demonstrators and the security forces, elevating threats to bystanders. (Source: Sibylline)
28 Jul 22. Nigeria: Fuel subsidies and enduring security challenges will continue to threaten oil revenue, undermining economic growth. On 26 July, Nigeria’s accountant general announced that revenues in the ‘Excess Crude Account’, a government run emergency fund, fell from USD 35.37m in May to USD 376,655 by the end of June. The decline was partly caused by the use of oil revenues to fund a USD 9.4bn extension of the petrol subsidy approved in April. The government says it is planning to increase spending throughout 2023, possibly up to USD 16.2bn. It has also used the account to fund security measures as the country attempts to re-open the Trans Niger pipeline, which is responsible for transporting around 15 percent of daily output to export terminals. Although the pipeline is due to re-open in August, enduring security challenges are likely to sustain threats to oil production, worsening economic conditions in the country and deterring international investment. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Jul 22. Iraq-Turkey: Attempted attack on Turkish consulate underscores elevated threat to Turkish assets. Earlier this morning, 27 July, local media outlets reported missile strikes targeting the Turkish consulate based in Mosul, located in Iraq’s Nineveh province. The attempted strike caused no significant material damage or injuries. In tandem, the Turkish-affiliated Zelikan military base in eastern Mosul has repeatedly been targeted by rockets in recent days. The uptick in strikes on Turkish assets over the past week are likely in retaliation against Ankara’s perceived role in the deadly attack on a tourist resort in Zakho located in Iraq’s northern Duhok Governorate (see Sibylline Alert – 20 July 2022). Whilst no groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks, Turkish military operations in northern Iraq will continue to drive the targeting of Turkish-linked assets by Iraqi militia in the coming days and weeks. Bystander risks will be particularly elevated in northern Kurdistan; however, it is likely that anti-Turkish sentiment will spread across wider Iraq. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Jul 22. Lebanon: Banking amendments will likely fall short of IMF requirements, jeopardising fiscal recovery. On 26 July, the Lebanese Parliament approved revisions to banking secrecy laws as part of efforts to unlock third-party financial support worth up to USD three bn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Yesterday’s parliamentary meeting was the first session since May, whereby lawmakers also endorsed a “wheat loan” worth up to USD 150 m from the World Bank to ease food security concerns. Despite some progress, political divisions and sectarian tensions continue to hamper efforts to implement structural reforms. For instance, whilst amendments to the secrecy law address issues of terrorism financing and money laundering, critical shortfalls remain as caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Saade Chami noted that the bill is insufficient in addressing financial corruption. Failure to adequately address IMF recommendations will jeopardise the release of funds, sustaining Lebanon’s socio-economic crisis and the risk of civil unrest near government buildings and key cities including Tripoli and Beirut. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Jul 22. Democratic Republic of Congo: Further protests targeting UN operations will increase threats to NGO staff. On 26 July, demonstrators in Goma and Butembo in the eastern North Kivu province held violent protests for a second consecutive day calling for the UN’s mission to the DRC, MONUSCO, to withdraw over its inability to contain rising levels of conflict with rebel groups. At least 12 protesters and three UN ‘blue helmet’ soldiers have been killed in the demonstrations, which have included the looting of MONUSCO warehouses and offices and attempted home invasions on residences of UN staff, forcing evacuations from Goma. Public anger over insecurity has been exacerbated by the recent rise in attacks by the M23 rebel group (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 14 June 2022), which will continue in the border districts of Nyiragongo and Rutshuru to the north of Goma. This, combined with the shooting of protesters by unidentified gunmen, will sustain the threat of further demonstrations targeting MONUSCO facilities in the coming weeks, elevating security threats to NGO workers and disrupting operations reliant on UN security. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Jul 22. Japan-Indonesia: Improvement of bilateral maritime security, economic ties will sustain regional security risks. On 27 July, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indonesian President Joko Widodo agreed to bolster bilateral maritime security ties, in an effort to counter China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and to enhance cooperation on climate change and energy. Japan will also provide USD 318 m loans for infrastructure and disaster prevention projects in Indonesia. Kishida further announced that the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) will participate at the Garuda Shield multilateral military exercise in August in Indonesia for the first time together with US and Australian forces, which will likely raise China-Japan military tensions. The announcement followed an in-person meeting between Widodo and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where both agreed to boost diplomatic and trade ties. Indonesia’s socio-economic health is expected to benefit from both summits at least over the medium term, but divisions over regional security will sustain, but likely not over-escalate, security risks. An uptick in Chinese military incursions during August, especially near disputed waters in the East and South China Seas, is possible. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. Tunisia: Constitutional Changes. The Tunisian government is holding a referendum today, 25 July, to determine whether constitutional amendments outlined by President Kais Saied will be implemented. The results are expected to be announced on the morning of 26 July, with local media outlets confirming that polls will close at 2200 (local time) on 25 July.
- According to opposition groups, including the Ennahda Movement and the Free Constitutional Party, Saied’s proposed changes to the 2014 constitution will expand his presidential powers to encompass legislative, judicial and executive authority. The draft constitution will shift the current system away from a ‘hybrid parliamentary-presidential’ model, solidifying Saied’s power grab. The president’s unilateral policies will deepen Tunisia’s enduring institutional corruption and structural deficiencies, further exacerbated by Saied’s closure of independent anti-corruption agencies.
- The date of the referendum marks both the anniversary of Saied’s suspension of parliament in July 2021 and Tunisia’s Republic Day, a national holiday. Public engagement with Saied’s constitutional changes has been minimal to date, with less than four percent of the population responding to Tunisia’s National Consultation ‘e-survey’ launched in January. Turnout is therefore expected to be very low, with Tunisia’s most influential parties calling on all Tunisians to boycott as part of their anti-referendum campaign. Limited public involvement will further undermine the legitimacy of Saied’s sweeping reforms.
- Tunisia’s successive governments have failed to improve the country’s socio-economic conditions. Since the 2011 Arab Spring, more than ten different governments have come to power, with political stalemates and instability hindering critical structural reforms and cross-sectoral economic growth. The authorities have failed to boost job opportunities and to support the public financially through economic crises, which have recently been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and fallout from the ongoing war in Ukraine. These conditions have sustained the risk of civil unrest and trade union strikes in major cities like the capital Tunis, with security forces often firing tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds.
According to rules set by Saied, a low turnout will not undermine the validity of the referendum, reflecting his intent to proceed with the process of adopting a new constitution. As such, an announcement confirming the passing of the new constitution is likely in the coming days, which will highly likely trigger protests amid widespread opposition and public frustration.
Elevated levels of unrest are expected along major roads, in public squares and outside government buildings in key urban centres. In Tunis, protesters frequently convene around the parliament building near the Bardo National Museum and along Avenue Habib Bourguiba. The risk of clashes between protesters and the security forces will remain amid a strengthened security posture. The authorities will likely seek to prevent demonstrators from assembling, particularly in the vicinity of government buildings. In addition, there is a realistic possibility of escalatory confrontations between pro- and anti-Saied demonstrators. As a result, firms operating in Tunisia are likely to experience moderate business continuity disruption in the coming days, including to overland transport operations. There will also be an elevated bystander risk for staff and clients in urban centres.
Sustained anti-government sentiment and criticism among opposition parties in the coming days will also fuel bouts of unrest ahead of legislative elections scheduled for December. There is a realistic possibility that Saied will leverage the new constitution (which stipulates his right to rule by decree until the formation of a new government) to postpone elections. Any such move will trigger a significant public backlash, resulting in protracted political tensions and instability with major parties. This will threaten Tunisia’s objective of securing third-party donor funding from the International Monetary Fund, sustaining the downward trend of the country’s economic situation. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. B-2 stealth bombers in extended deployment to Australia. Two US Air Force (USAF) Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers will operate in Australia until the end of August. This is the first deployment of B-2 bombers to Australia as part of the Bomber Task Force (BTF). The B-2s arrived at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Amberley on 10 July to support a BTF deployment, the US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) said in a statement. The aircraft belong to the US 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. The BTF deployments are part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation initiative between the United States and Australia. The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) told Janes that this initiative includes “enhanced air co-operation through the rotational deployment of US aircraft of all types in Australia and appropriate aircraft training and exercises.” (Source: Janes)
25 Jul 22. Myanmar: Executions will sustain opposition to junta, and escalate immediate threat of retaliatory attacks. On 25 July, state media reported that four anti-junta activists had been executed, after being sentenced to death in behind closed-door trials earlier this year for allegedly helping civilian militias to perpetrate “terror attacks”. The executed individuals included a former MP, and represented the first judicial executions since the 1980s. The executions drew condemnation from members of the international community, including the Japanese Foreign Ministry and US Embassy, and is the latest escalation of alleged atrocities from the junta since last year’s coup. It is likely that the executions are an attempt to intimidate those opposing the regime, although it further closes the door to a peaceful resolution. Additionally, it is highly likely that civilian militias – known as People’s Defence Forces – will carry out attacks in response to the executions aimed at military-associated targets, including in urban areas such as Yangon. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. Mexico: Authorities warn of theft of medical supplies, increasing health and reputational risks. On 22 July, Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk (Cofepris), issued an alert over the robbery of medical supplies. It came after two batches of medical devices used for haemodialysis and a batch of anaesthetics was stolen. Cofepris highlighted that the theft of the medical supplies increases the threats posed by the use of these products given that once they are stolen there is no guarantee that rules for safe transport, storage, and handling have been followed, increasing health risks for patients. As a result, Cofepris recommends not purchasing these products from private pharmacies or through the internet or social networks. Whilst the theft of medical supplies is not new in Mexico, and is a trend that has accelerated since the pandemic, the recent alert highlights the elevated health and reputational risks that this creates, increasing pressure on firms that supply and sell these products to increase security measures. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. Paraguay: Former president added to US corruption list, heightening reputational and political instability risks. On 22 July, the US added Paraguay’s former president, Horacio Manuel Cartes, to its list of designated corrupt and undemocratic actors “for his involvement in significant corruption” linked to international terrorist groups. Cartes is the latest Latin American leader designated in the US’s current crackdown on corruption. The designation of Cartes, who is being investigated for money laundering, will significantly increase reputational risks for firms operating in Paraguay given that he owns a conglomerate of around 25 companies, including a supermarket chain, media outlets, and tobacco companies. He also owns Tabacalera del Este (Tabesa) which last May sent a batch of cigarettes to Aruba on a Venezuelan-Iranian plane that is being investigated in Argentina as part of anti-international terrorism probe. Moreover, Cartes remains an influential figure in the ruling Partido Colorado that is currently seeking to secure the presidency, increasing political instability risks if Cartes is prosecuted by US or Paraguayan authorities. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. Libya: Armed clashes heighten concerns over full-scale war, sustaining a volatile business environment. On 23 July, Libya’s Ministry of Health reported that clashes between rival militias, the Al-Radaa Force and the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, in Tripoli killed at least 16 people, including civilians, and injured 52 others. Local media outlets added that the clashes triggered mass civilian evacuations and the temporary closure of Mitiga airport. Recent developments underscore Libya’s worsening security environment, as divisions between opposing political administrations continue to drive violence and competition between militias (see Sibylline Alert – 17 May 2022). Failure to endorse a political solution and establish an election roadmap will sustain the risk of armed confrontations in the coming weeks and months, increasing the probability of a return to civil war. Over the coming months critical infrastructure and surrounding buildings in cities such as Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata will face increased threat of substantial damage, whilst clashes heighten the likelihood of bystander deaths. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. Iran – Israel: Alleged foiling of Mossad-linked terrorist attack highlights enduring tit-for-tat hostilities. On 23 July, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry announced that it had arrested a group of individuals allegedly linked to Israel’s Mossad agency. The statement noted that the network was planning on carrying out a terrorist attack on Iran’s Isfahan city, located approximately 400 kilometres south of Tehran. It further added that the operatives entered Iran via the Iraqi Kurdistan region carrying armed equipment, which is consistent with Iranian claims that Israel operates strategic centres in Erbil, which prompted Tehran to launch 12 ballistic missiles into the region earlier this year (see Sibylline Alert -13 March 2022). Recent developments are largely on-trend with Iran and Israel’s worsening geopolitical tensions, driven by stalling nuclear negotiations and Iran’s perceived role in exacerbating regional insecurity. Escalation between the two states will sustain the threat of tit-for-tat hostilities, elevating the likelihood of disruptive cyber-attacks and retaliatory attacks on critical infrastructure including in the maritime sphere. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. Madagascar: Further protests likely as inflation increases. On 23 July, police arrested two leading members of Madagascar’s primary opposition party, Taiko I Madagasikara, during protests in Antananarivo over rising living costs, organised by an opposition platform Rassemblement des Opposants a Madagascar pour la Democratie (RMDM). Both opposition figures have now been released. Protests are relatively uncommon in Madagascar, in part because protest action is regularly prohibited by authorities, as was the case with the demonstration on 23 July. However, inflation, particularly food inflation, is becoming unsustainable for many Madagascan households increasing the likelihood of further demonstrations in the capital and other major cities in the coming weeks. Recent agreements between Ukraine and Russia to allow wheat shipments, may help to reduce pressure on food supply, however there is a high likelihood that the agreement will be violated, threatening to drive further food inflation. Police will likely prohibit protests, increasing the probability that demonstrations will be violently dispersed, elevating threats to bystanders. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. China: New permanent rescue installation in South China Sea will improve emergency response capabilities, but also raise regional tensions. On 23 July, China’s state-run CCTV reported that permanent rescue and maritime administration units from China’s Ministry of Transport had been stationed on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs in the South China Sea’s (SCS) Spratly Islands. In addition to providing maritime emergency rescue services, the newly-deployed specialised units will also perform ‘maritime traffic safety supervision’, a task which will increasingly de-facto shape maritime activities according to Beijing’s policies and interests. By providing alleged international public services, Beijing will not only improve regional rescue and emergency response capabilities, but also bolster its territorial reclamation efforts and challenge other regional claimants, consequently heightening regional tensions in the air and at sea. The increasing securitisation and militarisation of the SCS will likely increase the number of aggressive encounters by Chinese, regional, and US military forces in the air and at sea, elevating the threat of crisis escalation. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. Russia: Forced suspension of Jewish organisation activities are likely to prompt Israeli diplomatic retaliation. On 25 July, Israeli news sources reported that several Russian Jewish organisations have received letters from the Russian Justice Ministry, warning that they could be designated as “foreign agents” and therefore could face a suspension of their in-country work. This follows the Russian Justice Ministry’s official call last week for the “dissolution” of the activities of the Jewish Agency, citing unspecified legal violations. This comes amid rising tensions between Russian and Israel over the latter’s support of Ukraine in the context of Moscow’s invasion. On 24 July, Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s warned Russia that suspending the Jewish Agency’s in-country activities would represent a “grave event” negatively impacting bilateral relations. This week, an Israeli delegation will visit Moscow to discuss the issue, with a reasonable probability of reaching an agreement. However, the closure of the Jewish Agency and other organisations would heighten tensions with Israel, likely to trigger diplomatic retaliation in the coming weeks. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Jul 22. First UK-funded Anti-Terrorism Police Unit headquarters opened in Kenya. British High Commissioner to Kenya joined Kenya’s Interior Minister for the official opening of the KES81 m facility.
The British High Commissioner, Jane Marriott, and Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, Dr Fred Matiang’i opened the first Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) Coast Regional Headquarters and Mombasa Police Station, worth KES81 m.
The police station will provide a dedicated space for the ATPU to work on terrorism cases. It will also allow direct access to the ATPU for the public, creating more awareness about the ATPU’s work and strengthening their relationship with the local community.
Human rights compliance and international standards such as the Mandela Rules have been at the heart of the building’s design. The station includes a secure detention facility with separate cells and private ablution amenities for men, women and children. It is a testament to the UK and Kenya’s shared commitment to the rule of law and international human rights.
The British High Commissioner to Kenya, Jane Marriott, said: “Kenya is the UK’s premier security partner in East Africa. A primary focus of this partnership is to strengthen counter-terrorist capacity within the criminal justice system, in line with international human rights standards. The UK works with stakeholders across the criminal justice pathway, including investigators, detention supervisors, prosecutors and judiciary, all of whom are key to preventing and disrupting terrorist activity. Terrorism is one of the biggest threats facing our countries. To counter this threat, I am delighted to support Kenya with approximately KES 1bn [£7m] a year.”
Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior Dr Fred Matiang’i said: “As a Government, we applaud the UK-Kenya Security Compact agreed in 2018 and the incorporation of the UK Kenya Strategic Partnership 2020 – 2025, through which the British High Commission has worked with the Government of Kenya to establish this modern, purpose-built police station with detention facilities for ATPU Coast in Mombasa. With the assistance of our partners, we have steadily grown our capabilities to confront terrorism and other transnational crimes. We are immensely grateful to the people of the United Kingdom, through the British High Commission (Nairobi), for our continued warm and cordial working relationship and particularly on Counter Terrorism.”
The building has state of the art rooms including, storage areas, conference room, IT room, server area, armoury, CCTV room, 9 holding cells for male, female, and juvenile all fitted with fixed beds, modern toilet and adequate ventilation.
Over the last year, the UK has supported the ATPU with various activities including trainings on terrorist financing, witness interviews, IEDs, gender sensitivity as well as the delivery of an internationally accredited Training of Trainers programme. Going forward, we are pleased to continue specialist skills training support in this building.
The building has dedicated spaces for different ATPU teams – investigations, evidence analysis and forensics – enabling them to work together under one roof. It also has a multi-agency room for the ATPU to invite in and to work closely with other national security bodies and international partners in a secure environment. A training room is also available to facilitate the ATPU to embed key skills across their personnel.
- As our closest partner on counter terrorism in East Africa, the UK stands with Kenya in our joint fight against terrorism. The UK invests approximately KES1.1 bn (£7 m) a year to support Kenya’s Counterterrorism (CT) efforts
- The UK’s CT support to Kenya is wide-ranging.
- We work closely with the Ministry of Interior to build the capacity of criminal justice institutions through training and mentoring, and by reinforcing Kenya’s CT infrastructure – such as through the establishment of Kahawa Law Court, Kenya’s first court dedicated to addressing terrorism offences
- In February 2022, the British High Commissioner handed over critical forensic medical equipment to the Chief Administration Secretary, in the Ministry of Health, Dr Rashid Aman to improve disaster response and support forensic investigations
- Counter terrorism requires not only a strong security response, but also a holistic preventative effort that incorporates political, diplomatic and development approaches. Recently, we have worked to reduce the vulnerability to radicalisation of 800 at-risk Kenyans through engagement with communities and civil society organisations
- The UK also supports improvements in aviation and maritime security standards through technical assistance to the Ministry of Transport and Port Authorities (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
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