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10 Nov 22. Israel: Domestic Policy.
- The return of the Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister will sustain foreign policy continuity with the government jointly led by Naftali Bennett and current caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid. As such, Netanyahu is unlikely to change Israel’s current approach to the perceived Iranian threat, which will maintain stable relations with Abraham Accords countries, as well as Turkey, and uphold the recent maritime demarcation deal with Lebanon vis-à-vis energy sector opportunities and thawed relations with the US.
- A new executive led again by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is unlikely to reverse the status quo on LGBTQI+ and reproductive rights in Israel, even with the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties in the upcoming government. However, increasingly polarised political narratives directed at members or supporters of LGBTQI+ individuals and communities in the near term are likely to negatively impact the outlook of LGBTQI+ tourism and raise duty of care risks for businesses.
- The expected political compromises that will allow Netanyahu to maintain a governing coalition with a secure majority, are likely to embolden the push of ultra-Orthodox, religiously-driven, domestic policies to appease future Knesset allies and their supporters. The approval of such policies is likely to negatively affect the operational business environment, particularly for firms operating in the hospitality, entertainment and food manufacturing sectors.
- Business staff and assets will be exposed to elevated operational and physical security risks in the near term across the West Bank and Jerusalem due to the likelihood of continued violent clashes and attacks, in line with the trend observed over recent weeks. Risks will primarily remain linked to the likelihood of bystander risks for business staff and travel disruption in the West Bank.
- The inclusion of political personalities such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich in a Netanyahu-led government will embolden the campaigns of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and affiliated activist groups. This will increase the online and physical targeting, as well as exposure, of businesses linked to or operating in Israel, elevating security and brand image risks.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog began consultations with parties on 9 November, to appoint a candidate to kick-start the formal government formation process, with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu expected to be appointed in the coming days. As of 8 November, Netanyahu had already met with the heads of parties within his right-religious bloc, including Avi Maoz (Noam party), Itamar Ben-Gvir (Jewish Power party) and Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism party), amid preliminary coalition talks. Notably, the overall high turnout for the 1 November elections, resulted in a marked voting increase in right-leaning cities such as Be’er Sheva, Jerusalem, Ashkelon and Ashdod, as well as unprecedented numbers among supporters of ultra-Orthodox parties. Therefore, beyond the make-up of the future executive, a Netanyahu-led government is likely to have to address the main campaign and voting drivers, including the high costs of living in Israel, as well as the demands of the supporters of his slated governing coalition allies.
Foreign policy continuity likely to reassure Gulf partners; diplomatic tensions with the US unlikely in the short term
Historically, Netanyahu has considered himself the security guarantor of Israel, effectively utilising such rhetoric in these elections to appeal to security-focused voters. Ahead of the 1 November elections, Netanyahu sought to repeatedly criticise the recent maritime demarcation deal with Lebanon. The Likud leader further described the agreement ‘illegal’ and accused Lapid of not governing with Israel’s national security interests in mind. Nonetheless, a reversal of the deal remains a low-likelihood but high-impact scenario. The central role of the US and the economic opportunities, both in terms of expansion within European markets and Mediterranean gas exploration bids for Israel, are highly likely to ensure the deal is upheld in the short-to-medium term. This will be further sustained in the immediate term by the recent gas discovery announced by Energean, on 7 November, in the Zeus-01 exploration well, west of the Karish field, located just south of the newly establish maritime border with Lebanon.
Netanyahu’s return to power has also raised concerns about renewed tensions with Iran, as well as with Gulf countries after the UAE shared criticisms over the potential inclusion of ultra-nationalist figures like Ben-Gvir in a new Israeli government. However, Israel’s policy with Iran is likely to remain unchanged after Bennett’s shift to the ‘Octopus Doctrine’, which has allowed Israel to carry out operations within Iran, and maintain the continued opposition to the revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the nuclear deal.
Gulf leaders with ties to Israel via the Abraham Accords are likely to perceive the Likud leader as a balancing power in the region vis-à-vis the perceived Iranian threat. Similarly, the recent thawing of relations with Turkey is likely to be tested by a Netanyahu-led government, particularly over the activities in Turkey of the Gaza-based Palestinian group Hamas. However, the positive steps taken to closer ties are unlikely to be challenged in the near term, with the momentum on trade, tourism and security set to continue. Nonetheless, the return of the US Biden administration to a more active pursuit of the nuclear deal is set to raise the likelihood of brinkmanship tactics by Israel. However, this will continue to be mitigated by the continued stall in nuclear deal negotiations. In the immediate term, the present circumstances of the tit-for-tat tensions between Israel and Iran is likely to continue, with particularly elevated threats with regard to the possibility of cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure.
Reversal of LGBTQI+ and reproductive rights status quo unlikely; religious-driven domestic agendas will elevate policy direction risks
Members of the Religious Zionist alliance parties have been at the forefront of supporting anti-LGBTQI+ stances including a ban on pride parades and the removal of gender-related content from the public school curriculum. In particular, concerns by LGBTQI+ groups and Knesset members have been raised on the potential reversal of the most recent policies by the Ministry of Health under the current government, including removing the ban on conversion therapy, the insurance coverage for gender-affirming healthcare and reimposing the ban preventing homosexual men from donating blood. The parties have also voiced similar policy positions with regard to reproductive rights, including anti-abortion stances. Nonetheless, a complete reversal of current social, reproductive and gender rights in Israel remains unlikely at present. Overall, Netanyahu has led multiple governments, often with ultra-Orthodox religious parties as coalition members, and this has not resulted in the curtailing of the rights of LGBTQI+ communities.
However, the main shift in voting patterns observed during these most recent polls was largely driven by the increased support of ultra-Orthodox voters. As such, there is a realistic possibility that Netanyahu will have to concede on certain policy elements, including reversing a tax banning single-use plastic items and a recent reform opening the kosher certification market, with its final stage to be implemented starting January 2023. Both policies have been vocally criticised by the elements of the right-religious bloc supporting the Likud leader.
Additionally, the comments by the head of the Religious Zionism party demanding that the Israeli professional soccer leagues stop playing during Shabbat, have added to the domestic backlash voiced by several soon-to-be opposition Knesset members that future policies will be highly influenced by a religious agenda. While Sabbat does entail the pause of certain activities, matches have been historically held on Saturdays in Israel. The inclusion of religiously-driven policies is highly likely to represent a polarising driver domestically in Israel in the coming months. Furthermore, the imposition of additional restrictions on activities during Shabbat will drive ethnoreligious tensions in mixed Arab-Jewish cities, as well as between secular and ultra-Orthodox communities. Equally, an expansion will entail negative impacts on businesses in the hospitality, sports and entertainment sectors, by elevating operational disruptions and with the realistic possibility of reducing investor confidence.
West Bank security volatility will persist throughout the formal government formation process; latent threat of attacks remains
Following the vote on 3 November, Israeli authorities lifted all movement restrictions that had been imposed in and around Nablus, in response to an uptick in attacks, mainly driven by the Palestinian Lion’s Den group, and violent confrontations in flashpoint areas, including the Shu’fat refugee camp.However, incidents have sustained the volatility of the security environment. On 8 November, confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians resulted in the death of a 15-year-old Palestinian, after alleged reports that the member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades had fired at the right-wing Knesset members visiting Joseph’s tomb, near Nablus. As such, in line with our previous assessments, ethnoreligious tensions will remain elevated in the near term, sustaining the risk of attacks by Palestinian groups and sole perpetrator incidents.
Moreover, Netanyahu’s expected coalition partners are likely to demand actions which are likely to inflame tensions with Palestinians across the West Bank. For instance, Ben-Gvir has been a strong supporter of allowing Jewish prayer at Temple Mount, also known as al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf, the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. The latter has been a highly contentious issue, which has triggered repeated bouts of violent unrest in Jerusalem and across the West Bank in the past year. While Netanyahu has stated he would seek to maintain the hotspot’s status quo, Israeli Knesset Member Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party has warned that such developments ‘will lead to war’.
In the immediate term, the presence of polarising political narratives has a realistic possibility of resulting in increased levels of online and offline targeting of LGBTQI+ individuals and communities, resulting, in some rare instances, in physical attacks. This will remain more likely in cities which have seen an increase in right-leaning and ultra-Orthodox support, including Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon and Ashdod. While some members of ultra-Orthodox parties and Likud have shared assurances on the protection of existing LGBTQI+ rights, the uncertainty of the policy outlook is likely to raise concerns for LGBTQI+ travellers, with knock-on effects on the tourism sector. This is also likely to raise duty of care risks for companies with LGBTQI+ staff based in Israel and personnel frequently travelling to and from the country. The likelihood of protests from the so-called ‘anti-Netanyahu’ and ‘pro-Netanyahu’ camps remains a latent threat, elevating the risks of demonstrations resulting in broader disruption and confrontation. This will sustain the likelihood of short-term operational disruptions for businesses, as well as physical security risks for staff and assets.
The likelihood of renewed settlement expansion remains high in the near term, particularly due to Netanyahu’s political track record and the relevance of the policy issue within Likud and the broader right-religious bloc. However, the possibility of annexation remains unlikely with the current US administration under President Joe Biden. Notably, the increased political weight of ultra-nationalist politicians like Ben-Gvir and the elevated likelihood of their inclusion in high-level positions within Netanyahu’s new executive will embolden the BDS movement and associated groups. This will exacerbate reputational risks, particularly brand image ones, for companies linked to or operating in Israel, in the defence, tech, agrifood and manufacturing sectors. Additionally, the current volatility of the security environment in Israel and across the Palestinian Territories will persist in the coming days and weeks. As such, there remains an elevated likelihood of continued stabbings, car rammings and shooting incidents. Urban centres in the West Bank and Israeli settlements will represent hotspots for violent incidents and attacks.
Currently, Israel has a reported fiscal surplus amounting to NIS 33bn (~USD 9.3bn), which cannot be used until discussions on the 2023-2024 budget resume. The latter were frozen with the announcement of elections in June. While formal coalition negotiations have yet to begin, the electoral promises made, particularly ones focused on mitigating the effects of the increased living costs, are likely to result in a boost in government spending.
In particular, Likud has promised the reduction of income and corporate tax, as well as reducing energy and water prices and local taxes for a one-year period. The reduction of local residential taxes, known as arnona, has a realistic possibility of significantly affecting the revenues of local authorities that will have to be supported by the government, further exacerbating public spending. Additionally, the further reduction of electricity prices by the Israel Electric Corporation will also continue to raise the growing debt of the state-owned company. While fiscal continuity is likely to persist in the coming months, the approval of a new budget in the second quarter of 2023, will elevate fiscal uncertainty and currency volatility risks. (Source: Sibylline)
10 Nov 22. Lebanon: Arrest of IS cells underscores terrorist threat; political vacuum will undermine security. On 9 November, the Internal Security Forces (ISF) reported that it arrested 30 individuals belonging to eight Islamic State (IS) terrorist cells between July and October. Among the detainees were Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian and Egyptian nationals. The arrests were carried out in the capital Beirut, as well as Beqaa, Mount Lebanon and North governorates. The ISF delayed announcing the arrests amid concerns this would impact the summer tourism season. It also stated that the cells were planning terrorist attacks against security and military targets, ‘as well as places of worship and gatherings’. A porous border with Syria and prolonged socio-economic hardship are likely to increase recruitment opportunities for terrorist groups seeking to expand membership and conduct attacks in Lebanon. The ongoing political vacuum is likely to undermine ISF capabilities in disrupting terrorist activity, impacting the stability of the security environment and business operations in the coming months. (Source: Sibylline)
10 Nov 22. Yemen: Drone strikes targeting critical infrastructure will persist, sustaining threat to maritime assets. On 9 November, Yemen’s Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree announced that the group had prevented government-backed forces from allegedly ‘smuggling’ oil out of Qena port. Saree’s statement was issued 24 hours after pro-government military sources reportedly shot down a Houthi-launched drone near the port. There has been an uptick in Houthi-led strikes against critical infrastructure, including drone attacks on Dhabbah port in Hadramout and Al-Nashima port in Shabwa last week. Retaliatory attacks between government-backed forces and Houthi militants will likely intensify in the coming days and weeks, underscored by the assassination of a high-profile Yemeni leader by the Houthis in southern Marib on 8 November. Escalations in Yemen’s domestic conflict will sustain the risk of cross-border aerial attacks against southern Saudi provinces, as well as drone strikes against ships and ports in areas such as the Bab al-Mandab Strait. (Source: Sibylline)
10 Nov 22. Sahel: Anti-French protests will likely persist despite end of Operation Barkhane. On 9 November, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of France’s counter-terrorism mission (Operation Barkhane) in Africa. France made the decision to end Barkhane in June 2021, and to focus its efforts on supporting counter-terrorism operations through a strengthened multilateral European task force. Although there are no plans to reduce the 3,000 French troops stationed in Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger, meetings to decide the reorganisation of French bases will take place in the coming days. Ever since France’s initial success in Mali in 2013, jihadist militants have expanded their operations into northern and eastern Burkina Faso, as well as western and southern Niger. This has driven considerable anti-French sentiment by local populations across the Sahel, which Russia has exacerbated through online disinformation campaigns. This prompted France’s withdrawal from Mali earlier this year. Anti-French sentiment is likely to persist as long as France maintains a military presence in the region. This will sustain the risk of further anti-French protests, particularly in Chad and Niger. (Source: Sibylline)
09 Nov 22. North Korea: Nuclear Tests.
- A record number of missile launches, and military provocations, by North Korea in response to perceived threats by the US and its allies will sustain elevated regional tensions for the foreseeable future. These activities will reinforce perceptions of failure in diplomacy regarding North Korea’s denuclearisation, raising regional anxieties and possibly weakening investors’ confidence. However, most business operations are unlikely to encounter major, direct disruption.
- North Korea is expected to conduct its seventh nuclear test in the near future in the form of an underground device explosion. The test, if occurs, will offer some vital information about Pyongyang’s progress in nuclear development, particularly regarding its miniaturisation technology.
- The likely robust responses to a North Korean nuclear test will lead to a gradual regional arms race, as South Korea and Japan seek to boost defence spending, adjust security policy/doctrine, as well as strengthen military cooperation with the US.
North Korea has continued to develop nuclear weapons as an asymmetric strategy to bridge the ‘conventional forces gap’ vis-a-vis US and South Korean military and therefore ensure national security and the survival of the dynastical totalitarian political setup. Indeed, amended nuclear legislation introduced by Pyongyang in early October, which effectively grants its right to pre-emptive strikes, seeks to bolster the country’s deterrence in light of the recent expansion of joint military exercises involving South Korean and US forces.
Despite the country’s worsening socio-economic health and unfolding food crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, Pyongyang appears to remain determined to double down on its nuclearisation efforts. As such, Pyongyang will sustain its increasingly aggressive and escalating rhetoric and military activities to hedge against perceived risks and threats, or use them as leverage for favourable economic concessions in future negotiations. Hence, North Korea’s recent ramped-up military posturing in the form of missile launches, artillery firings and airspace incursions are more reflective of a weakened government in search of security, rather than one that is preparing to wage a war.
A seventh nuclear test will exacerbate regional tensions and market volatility, but substantial changes to business operations unlikely in the short term
According to foreign intelligence reports, North Korea is expected to conduct an underground nuclear test, its seventh, in the coming days and weeks to bolster its deterrence against perceived aggression by South Korean and US armed forces. Preparations for such a test have been undergoing for months, but uncertainties over the timeline remain. Nonetheless, Pyongyang is committed to conducting such a test to showcase itself (especially to South Korea and the US) as a ‘proper’ nuclear power, a recognition that would strengthen Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s legitimacy, and in his view, the country’s national security.
Pyongyang’s record number of missile launches throughout 2022 (see Figure 1 and 2) and the looming nuclear test – expected to be conducted at Punggye-ri – will sustain elevated regional tensions, with the US likely maintain a substantial military presence on and near the Korean Peninsula. In short, North Korea, South Korea, and the US will fall into a cycle of deterrence by incremental shows of force.
Should Pyongyang carry out a new test, a significant show of force by the US, South Korea and Japan, to signal their commitment to preserving the region’s established security order, is expected. The test and expected robust military response will perpetuate regional tensions, while increased military activities will raise the risk of accidental clashes or a limited armed skirmish between the two Koreas, similar to the bombardment of Yeonpyeong in 2010. The test itself and possible escalations will spook investors and businesses operating in the region, especially those in the aviation and maritime transport sectors, even if the risk of a full-on armed conflict remains low.
10 Nov 22. North Korea’s continued provocation could also result in foreign and security policy changes that will further fuel tensions. For instance, a nuclear test by North Korea could help Tokyo justify hiking defence spending for Japan’s armed forces or even generate public support for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LPD) efforts to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution. Likewise, the persistent threat from North Korean ballistic missile testing to Japanese territories and waters will sustain public anxieties over national security threats, which could in turn galvanise electoral support for additional defence spending. Although these missile launches have thus far caused little, if any, business disruption in Japan and the rest of the region, such activities will dampen investor confidence amid the continuous threat of force against national territory, property, and assets.
The tit-for-tat military posturing could inadvertently drive a regional arms race and elevate policy risks for businesses involved in security and defence. Indeed, North Korean cyber threat actors will continue targeting technology and defence firms based in the US, South Korea and Japan. Investors and companies in the region’s financial markets will also likely experience heightened volatility, while the perception of a worsening regional security landscape could drive up operational costs in the form of insurance premiums for businesses or logistics. The failure of the international community to deter Pyongyang from conducting missile launches and nuclear tests, and North Korea’s new nuclear laws permitting pre-emptive strikes, will all have contributed to the perception of a deteriorating security environment on the Korean Peninsula.
While regional stakeholders and markets will remain anxious amid the uncertainty pertaining to North Korea’s looming nuclear test, the test itself would provide important clues about Pyongyang’s latest nuclear capability, particularly regarding the miniaturisation of nuclear warheads. (Source: Sibylline)
09 Nov 22. Sudan: Protest Likely.
- The military is reportedly close to agreeing to the Forces of Freedom and Change’s (FFC) proposal for a civilian-led transitional authority.
- The FFC will continue to call for protests to demonstrate mass opposition to military rule, increasing pressure on the military to accept less favourable terms for the agreement. However, even should an agreement be reached there are a number of contentious points within current proposals, elevating threats that some civilian groups will reject the agreement.
- Should the military continue to delay agreement over the coming months, increasing domestic and financial pressure will elevate fissures within the armed forces raising the risk of conflict within the military.
Over recent weeks reports have continued to mount that Sudanese military and civilian officials are close to agreeing on a civilian-led transitional government, raising hopes of a potential route out of sustained unrest over public rejection of military rule, and the restoration of western financial aid. The agreement is based upon proposals made by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the primary civilian coalition of political parties and civil society groups, on 17 October.
Unlike previous constitutional proposals issued by pro-military factions, this would lead to the establishment of a transitional authority comprising unions, rebel groups, protest groups and political parties outside the FFC, and the military would be denied an overarching governmental body. Additionally, the agreement would force the military to accept a non-military head of state and a prime minister selected by civilian factions. However, the transitional authority would include the participation of rebel groups who remained in government following the coup and non-FFC-aligned political groups, providing the military routes to maintain their influence. Negotiations are still ongoing with the chairman of the Sovereignty Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan confirming further talks will be held on 13 November.
Recent protests underline civil society groups’ likely use of demonstrations to place pressure on the military to accept an agreement
Despite prospects for an imminent agreement, protests have continued across Sudan over October and into November. 25 October marked the one-year anniversary of the 2021 coup, prompting thousands to protest in cities across the country against the military junta. In response, the government ordered the closure of the bridges linking Khartoum with Omdurman and Khartoum North (Bahri) and blocked national internet access. Security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters in Khartoum, as well as around Port Sudan in the east, killing one person. Despite elevated levels of police repression protests have continued, with the widespread detention of civilian protest organisers (known locally as resistance committees) in Khartoum on 7 November, doing little to stem mass demonstrations in the city on 8 November.
The high rate of protests reflects FFC efforts to maintain a significant degree of pressure on the military to make concessions, with the group calling for further demonstrations in order to reiterate that the military’s position is untenable over the long term. In particular, the FFC is likely hoping to force the military to drop their demands for immunity from prosecution. There are widespread concerns among the military leadership that without securing this guarantee they and their assets would be vulnerable to investigations into widespread human rights abuses. This is particularly the case for the leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Hamdan Dagalo, whose militia forces killed over 120 protesters on 3 June 2019. Additionally, while statements indicate the military is agreeing in principle to reforms of the security sector the military will likely push for control of the Council charged with spearheading these reforms.
Contentious elements within the proposal are likely to drive potential opposition to the agreement
However, the negotiations themselves are also highly contentious and once an agreement has been confirmed, could in itself act as a flashpoint for further unrest from dissatisfied resistance committees that have consistently voiced their opposition to any form of negotiation with the military. Groups such as the National Accord Forces (NAF), an FFC breakaway faction, have already rejected the agreement as a bilateral settlement between the FFC and the military. The FFC has tried to counteract this claim by insisting they will not agree to immunity for the military.
Furthermore, the agreement’s inclusion of rebel groups or parties that had aligned with former President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) remains a point of contention. The resistance committees oppose any inclusion of these rebel groups, perceiving such groups as vessels for sustaining military influence within the government.
As indicated by recent demonstrations, the FCC are likely to continue organising nationwide protests in an effort to encourage the military to accept the agreement and drop its demands. The significant concerns within the military about prosecution and the financial impact of a complete loss of influence within the government contrasted with the dire economic situation and heightened civil unrest render a timeline for such an agreement impossible to confirm. Despite pressure finalising an agreement could still take several weeks or months, resulting in prolonged protest action.
Such protests will continue to prompt a violent response from the security forces. This is particularly the case in Khartoum where efforts to prevent protesters from converging on central parts of the city and government buildings will drive the use of water cannons, tear gas and even live ammunition, heightening threats to the safety of bystanders. The implementation of roadblocks and the closure of bridges, including Al Mk Nemer Bridge which links Khartoum to Omdurman and Khartoum North (Bahri) to prevent protesters from entering Khartoum will sporadically disrupt citywide movement, particularly along Nile Street, the main traffic artery in Khartoum. A heightened security posture is also likely to be implemented in Port Sudan and South Kordofan, particularly in the former where restrictions and sporadic action from workers will disrupt supply chains along Sudan’s key export-import terminal.
However, in the worst-case scenario, if the military holds out on an agreement for too long, with civilian pressure mounting and the economy continuing to sharply deteriorate, fissures within the armed forces will also likely increase. This could go either way, with factions either pushing for an acceptance of the deal, due to concerns this may represent a final opportunity for peaceful withdrawal or rejecting it over concerns that such an agreement would end the influence they currently hold within governing of the country. Such concerns will raise the risk of a coup, particularly given elevated tensions between the military and the RSF, with many officers likely unwilling to delay for the sake of Dagalo’s position. Subsequent conflict between military units would significantly elevate incidental risks to staff and assets.
If and when an agreement is reached with civilian factions, particularly the FFC, which includes a civilian-led transitional authority and a civilian head of state it is likely that this will be supported by Western powers keen to reduce Russia’s capacity to increase its influence in the region. This would likely result in the unfreezing of around USD 50.7 bn in pledged economic assistance and the restoration of progress towards a debt relief agreement with the Paris Club. This would considerably boost the economy, going some way to addressing high rates of inflation and shortages of goods, significantly improving Sudan’s economic outlook.
However, if the FFC believes that its civil resistance strategy is not working and makes concessions to the military in order to secure an agreement, such as immunity from prosecution and influence over security reform, this will likely be rejected by some resistance committees. This will drive protests in the immediate aftermath of the agreement, but given the engagement of key civilian groups in the transitional government, it is unclear if such demonstrations would be able to sustain themselves or would be undermined by protester fatigue. (Source: Sibylline)
09 Nov 22. Iraq: Border Attack. Late on 8 November, local media outlets confirmed multiple explosions near the al-Qaim crossing near Syria’s Deir-ez-Zor Governorate after an attack on a convoy of oil tankers. There are conflicting media and official narratives with no official death toll. Media outlets affiliated with the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) attributed blame to US fighter jets, while Hizballah-backed sources maintain that Israel was behind the attack.
- Immediately following the attack, Telegram channels linked with the PMF distributed footage claiming that it was the ‘effects of the American aerial bombardment’, confirming the death of at least 25 pro-Iranian militia members. The sources maintain that the strike was in retaliation for the killing of a US citizen on 7 November, amid significant deteriorations in Iran-US relations. Notably, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini vowed revenge for the killing of General Qasem Soleimani and PMF commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on 2 November, naming the US and Saudi Arabia as targets.
- Separately, the Hizballah-affiliated al-Mayadeen TV reported that the airstrike was carried out by the ‘Zionist regime’, confirming that the oil tankers were transferring free Iranian oil to Lebanon as part of a Hizballah-brokered deal. There has been no official confirmation of Israeli involvement, but Hizballah’s rhetoric aligns with deepening geopolitical fissures, as IRGC General Hossein Salami recently warned Tehran’s ‘enemies’ including Israel for intervening in Iran’s domestic affairs.
- The al-Qaim crossing is a major trade supply route in the area, not only for Iraqi and Syrian produce but also region-wide. Reports suggest that the attack caused minimal long-term damage to transport routes. However, the incident underlines the prevalence of Iran-backed militia near bordering areas, corresponding with a witnessed uptick in targeted attacks against US military personnel based in Syria.
- Moreover, reports suggest that there were up to 22 trucks of Iranian oil, illustrating Hizballah’s continued cooperation with Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria. Despite the ratification of the US-brokered maritime deal between Israel and Lebanon, any perceived US involvement strengthens the notion that Washington will continue efforts to undermine Hizballah’s regional influence.
Border crossings between Iraq, Lebanon and Syria will remain vulnerable to sporadic attacks and airstrikes in the coming days and weeks. In this case, there is a realistic probability that overland transport links face disruptions, including congestion, if there is an incident that causes road closures. In the worst-case scenario, an uptick in airstrikes or the use of IEDs by militia forces will heighten the risk of miscalculation, posing significant bystander risks for businesses and assets located in-country. Al-Qaim will remain of critical strategic and economic importance for Lebanese trade, and the frequency of free Iranian oil transports is unlikely to be impacted by recent attacks. However, the continuation of such trade will sustain the likelihood of further incidents, due to the targeting of Iranian-backed militia members or efforts to undermine Hizballah.
Ee sibyIncreasingly widespread calls for revenge against US forces will elevate the risk of sole-perpetrator or planned attacks on Western assets or personnel, including consulates and military personnel. Beyond porous border areas, northern Iraq and US bases in Syria will remain hotspots for targeting due to the presence of Iranian militia and US forces, rendering IRGC-launched drone or missile strikes a realistic probability. Further deteriorations in diplomatic tensions between the US and Iran will sustain the risk of tit-for-tat hostilities, as the Iranian government will likely strengthen its narrative calling for retaliation against foreign involvement in exacerbating Tehran’s socio-economic crisis and ongoing protest movement. Ultimately, physical security risks for Western personnel and assets will persist in the coming days and weeks. (Source: Sibylline)
09 Nov 22. Iraq – Syria: Perceived US involvement in border attack will sustain the threat of retaliatory assaults. Late on 8 November, local media confirmed multiple explosions near the Iraqi-Syrian border due to an attack on a convoy of oil tankers. The incident reportedly occurred at the al-Qaim crossing near Syria’s Deir-ez-Zor Governorate, with media outlets affiliated with the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces alleging that 25 pro-Iranian militia members were killed in the attack. It also claimed that US fighter jets carried out the attack in retaliation for the killing of a US citizen on 7 November. Alternatively, a Hizballah-affiliated outlet maintains that Israel was behind the attack with few casualties, but no official statement from Iraqi or Syrian security forces has confirmed responsibility. The US Central Command has denied any involvement, but the intensification of widespread anti-US rhetoric increases the likelihood of retaliatory attacks on US personnel and assets across Iraq. (Source: Sibylline)
09 Nov 22. Bolivia: Protests. Luis Fernando Camacho, the governor of Santa Cruz department, announced on 8 November that he will seek to intensify anti-government protests and sustain an ongoing regional strike over the delay of a national census. His comments came after four regional delegates abandoned government-brokered negotiations. President Luis Arce has also come under pressure from high-profile political allies to resolve the strike and rolling protests.
- The Comité Pro Santa Cruz civic group launched a regional strike on 22 October to protest against the postponement of a census. The postponement has impeded access to economic resources. The group has staged several protests in various urban centres, including Santa Cruz and Puerto Quijarro, in which at least one person was killed and several others were injured. Activists affiliated with the governing Movement for Socialism (MAS) party have also staged counter-protests.
- The protests and roadblocks have led to severe transport disruption that has affected internal trade. In the city of Santa Cruz, there are considerable shortages of petrol and cooking gas. Local reports also indicate that food inflation has surged across the department. With regard to external trade, border crossings into Brazil’s Mato Grosso state have experienced significant disruption. On 27 October, the government suspended the export of soybeans, sugar, oil and beef to shore up domestic supplies. Early forecasts place total economic losses at around USD550m due to lost business as a result of the strike – roughly 1.3 percent of GDP.
- The conservative-leaning Santa Cruz is the centre of the country’s livestock and agricultural industries. A census was originally scheduled for 2022, but was later delayed by the left-wing government citing ‘quality’ concerns. Although the government set up official negotiations to reschedule the census on 4 November, delegates have reported slower-than-expected progress. The government indicated on 8 November that the negotiations will continue.
In our base case scenario, the regional strike and protests will continue in the near term, forcing the government to compromise with the authorities in Santa Cruz. This assessment is supported by recent comments by MAS officials suggesting that the government has mishandled the negotiations for a census. Nevertheless, significant uncertainty remains as to whether protests will expand to other departments. If related demonstrations take place in other urban centres, opposition figures may seek to extract further concessions from the government. Both scenarios will result in elevated policy risks.
With regard to ongoing protests, there is an elevated risk to bystanders and assets in Santa Cruz. The police and counter-protesters have attempted to repel demonstrations, which has led to deadly clashes. Instances of arson are also common during protests in the department.
Triggers for Escalation:
- Calls for continued protests by political figures and labour unions in Santa Cruz
- Local political support for protests and strike action by separate departments, including Beni, La Paz and Tarija
- An expansion of roadblocks around key sites (such as refineries and food stores) and in urban centres, as well as an increase in counter-protests during scheduled demonstrations
- A crackdown by the security forces on protesters affiliated with conservative figures
Triggers for De-escalation:
- Reduced or withdrawn support for the regional strike by local businesses and labour groups
- The authorities in Santa Cruz and other departments re-join government-led negotiations to establish a census date
- The withdrawal of MAS activists blocking access to key infrastructure and urban centres (Source: Sibylline)
08 Nov 22. Nigeria: Threat of FCT attacks. Concerns over a potential terror attack on Abuja have risen in recent weeks following warnings from the US and UK of such a threat on 23 October. The alerts listed a broad array of high-risk public areas, including government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, sporting facilities and transit nodes. Nigerian authorities have stated that there is no imminent threat to Abuja but the US has continued to implement measures in response to the elevated threat level, with the US State Department ordering the departure of diplomats’ families and non-emergency government employees from Abuja.
Attacks in surrounding states underline elevated threat of attacks in the FCT
It remains unclear whether the alert was issued in response to specific intelligence. No intelligence has subsequently emerged indicating an attack within Abuja is imminent. However, the alerts potentially reflect an acknowledgement of the heightened latent threat of attack, particularly within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) surrounding Abuja proper. This is in line with our assessment of the elevated threat of attacks within the FCT following attacks by armed groups (known locally as bandits) aligned with Islamic State in West Africa Province and Ansaru within the FCT in July.
Throughout October, bandit armed groups have continued to demonstrate their operational capabilities in states surrounding the FCT, launching several attacks in these areas over the period. On 8 October, armed gunmen attacked Gidan Sule village, in Kaduna State, killing at least five people. On 18 October, armed gunmen abducted at least 10 healthcare workers and killed several others in the country’s Niger state. In the Lokoja area in north-central Koji state, 105 kilometres (65 miles) from Abuja, gunmen attacked the Celestial Church, killing at least two people on 30 October. These attacks also appear to highlight continuing ties with jihadist groups, with targeting remaining consistent with ISWAP ideology to target markets and religious sites utilised by Christians, following attacks in Taraba state in April.
Attacks have driven security forces to implement a heightened security posture around Abuja, with local sources reporting that police managers in charge of commands and tactical formations have been called on boost security in their jurisdictions and particularly within the FCT. Police have also called on citizens to remain vigilant. Furthermore, the Federal Executive Council approved USD6.2m for vehicles and equipment in the region and armed forces have broadened their operations to cover areas in Kogi, Nasarawa and Niger states. However, the attacks indicate that despite such measures, armed groups retain a degree of freedom of movement and operational capability in regions surrounding Abuja, raising the likelihood of further attacks on the FCT in the coming months.
Following the uptick in attacks in July, security forces increased their activity around Abuja with air force officials stating that the military would employ ‘maximum firepower’ against bandit groups. Given the persistent levels of insecurity in Niger, Kogi and Kaduna states, there is an enduring risk that authorities will implement telecommunications and internet blackouts in line with any escalation in bandit activity. This will sporadically impact businesses’ ability to communicate with staff on the ground, particularly affecting logistics firms and supply chains. Furthermore, increased security, including additional checkpoints surrounding Abuja, particularly along the Abuja-Kaduna highway, is likely to disrupt businesses’ movement of goods and personnel transiting in and out of Abuja.
Authorities have adopted a heightened security posture within Abuja. On 27 October, authorities closed down Jabi Lake Mall, a large shopping mall in central Abuja, over security concerns. While it is likely that the increasing frequency of unplanned closures of shopping centres, markets and transit nodes will cause disruptions to business operations, such security measures are likely to reduce threats of attacks in central Abuja.
However, jihadists’ retention of influence in surrounding states will sustain the threat of future attacks against the FCT. Outlying towns and neighbourhoods such as Bwari will remain highly vulnerable to future attacks, particularly if the government reduces its current heightened security posture. Bandit groups co-opted by both Ansaru and ISWAP have repeatedly demonstrated their capacity to conduct mass kidnaps, elevating the kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) risks to staff using public transport or travelling along major overground routes between Abuja and other nearby cities.
Such threats are likely to increase in the months leading to the February 2023 general election as jihadist groups will seek to escalate their activities to disrupt the election, heightening threats of attacks on polling stations and government and election facilities. This will significantly increase civilians’ exposure to violence. However, the government’s likely implementation of larger counter-insurgency offensives to deny jihadist and bandit groups territorial control in central Nigeria over the election period will reduce the threat of attacks in and around Abuja, although such measures have not yet been announced. In the longer term, such measures are financially and logistically unsustainable, elevating the likelihood of a deteriorating security environment in and around Abuja once authorities relax the security posture after the February 2023 election period. (Source: Sibylline)
08 Nov 22. Zhuhai Airshow display reveals info on China’s J-20, J-16 inventory. China has at least 200 stealthy J-20 fighters and more than 240 J-16 multirole strike aircraft in service, based on analysis of construction numbers painted on the jets by a Chinese military aviation expert.
Andreas Rupprecht, who has authored several books on China’s military aviation industry and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, told Defense News that based on the construction numbers seen on the jets at the Zhuhai Airshow, there have been four production batches of the J-20 and 11 batches of J-16s.
He noted that two of the Chengdu J-20 fighters at the show had “CB0369″ and “CB0370″ painted in small letters behind the canopy of the jets. Based on previous examples seen in public or on photos and videos released by China, “CB03″ would indicate the jets were from the fourth production batch, with “CB00″ being the first.
The last two digits of the construction number indicate the running number of that particular batch, with the jets at the air show being the 69th and 70th aircraft in the fourth production batch of J-20s.
He added that, based on his previous research, his “conservative estimate” is that the previous three production batches of J-20s had at least 18, 46 and 56 airframes, respectively. And adding 70 aircraft to the fourth batch and approximately 18 low-rate production platforms would bring the total J-20 production to 208 aircraft.
The presence of J-20s on static display at the air show has allowed photographers to obtain better resolution images of the aircraft than previously possible. The jets at the show, which runs Nov. 8-13, were powered by indigenous WS-10C engines and features low-observable sawtooth edges on their afterburner nozzles.
Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow for air power and technology at the U.K.-based think tank Royal United Services Institute, said “the surface detail shots show just how much progress the Chinese aircraft industry has made on manufacturing tolerance and quality control.”
Bronk told Defense News that based on photos of the J-20 low-rate initial production aircraft, which took part in the flying display at the 2018 Zhuhai Airshow, “China continues to make progress in closing the gap with U.S. low-observable designs.”
Meanwhile, the J-16 on static display this year carried the construction number “1105″ on the outside of its air intakes. According to Rupprecht, this indicates the aircraft was the fifth one of the 11th production batch.
He added that Shenyang Aircraft Corp., which manufactures the J-16, uses a more straightforward construction number and production batch system, with each batch numbering 24 aircraft. This means the aircraft at the show — which is assigned to the 172nd Air Brigade of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force — is the 245th production J-16.
The J-16 started entering PLAAF service in 2015. It is based on the Chinese J-11B interceptor and the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK series, both of which can trace their lineage back to the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker interceptor.
China has developed an electronic-attack version of the J-16 known as the J-16D. The type made its debut at the last Zhuhai Airshow in 2021 and appeared again at this year’s show. (Source: Defense News)
07 Nov 22. Until Syria gives proper assurances to the international community, we must assume it continues to hold chemical weapons.
Statement by Fergus Eckersley, UK Political Coordinator at the UN, at the Security Council briefing on Syrian chemical weapons
Thank you President, and thank you to the High Representative for the very helpful briefing.
President, Syria has had nine years to come into compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. But since its accession, it has repeatedly and categorically failed to provide the OPCW with a complete account of its chemical weapons programme. And as we know, the Syrian regime has been independently found responsible for at least 8 chemical weapons attacks by UN and OPCW independent investigations – attacks on its own people.
Syria has failed to assure the OPCW, or this Council, that it is today abiding by its commitments under resolution 2118 and as a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention
There is understandable frustration in the Council about the lack of progress, but we must see this for what it is. The problem here is not how many meetings this Council has. The problem is the behaviour of the Syrian regime in breach of core international laws, including resolutions of this Council. And the problem is systematic disinformation from Syria and Russia in an effort to obscure this behaviour and to avoid accountability. Including deeply irresponsible attempts to attack the OPCW.
We heard from the High Representative today the risks of the erosion of the taboo against using chemical weapons. The OPCW is responsible for preventing the spread of chemical weapons. It is an expert and highly professional organisation, and it is in all of our interests to prevent it from being degraded by disinformation.
President, until Syria gives proper assurances to the international community, we must assume that Syria continues to hold chemical weapons. And given its track record, we must assume that the regime remains willing to use them. So, it is up to members of this Council to maintain the pressure to resolve this ongoing threat to international peace and security. Thank you. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
07 Nov 22. Treasury funding not the only mountain SA defence industry has to climb. It is common knowledge the South African defence industry is, to use a nautical term, in the doldrums, with a lack of government funding to finance acquisition. There is a second leg to the problem which also lies with government in the form of employees – so-called public servants.
This came forcefully to light during a Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) meeting last week when the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association of SA (AMD) updated Parliamentarians on the SA defence industry, now widely abbreviated to the acronym SADI.
To support its presentation AMD showed committee members a six-page document listing any number of problems, “challenges” in government-speak, encountered regularly by local defence industry companies when dealing with the Directorate Conventional Arms Control (DCAC) and the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC).
One point of many highlighted by the industry’s representative body are “irregular” NCACC meetings. Monthly meetings are “cancelled” with “issues” (presumably agenda items) moved to the next scheduled meeting.
“This causes applications to be moved a further month or more after being processed by the DCAC over mostly unreasonable times. These unreasonable times include for example, DCAC receiving an application, sending it for departmental review and finding ‘error/s’ on the application. DCAC has the rule they do not contact Industry, but Industry must contact them to follow up on status of applications,” according to AMD.
DCAC, according to AMD, “seldom” answer telephones; “do not appear to work normal working hours”; “seldom work on Fridays”; and submission and collection of applications can only be done Monday to Thursday between 08h00 and 12h00. AMD continues, stating DCAC “does not respond in writing” and “there is little to no continuity in processing applications” applicable particularly when staff are on leave or off sick.
Responding to AMD, the JSCD called for “better co-ordination and improved lines of communication” between government and SADI. Joint JSCD chairs Cyril Xaba and Mamagase Nchabeleng bemoaned the non-implementation of the national aerospace and defence masterplan saying in a statement: “Again we are faced with an impressive plan on paper and implementation remains the Achilles heel. We need to resolve this urgently”.
Separately, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais, who sits on the JSCD and the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV), said the presentation exposed “shortcomings” in NCACC performance and DCAC administration. He told defenceWeb the NCACC “has a lot to answer for”.
“If they (the NCACC) snooze we all lose,” he said with reference to SADI employing more people to supply products and services to a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in need of them to boost capabilities.
The Parliamentary oversight committee agreed there is a need to review the National Conventional Arms Control Act to reflect “a changed environment and SADI’s export outlook”.
The JSCD welcomed the “commitment” of industry and Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise to hold the “delayed defence industry lekgotla” now set for no later than March next year. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
07 Nov 22. Egypt: Response To Protests. The Egyptian government has bolstered its security posture nationwide in response to mounting calls for protests on 11 November. Authorities have placed the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, which is hosting the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) between 6-18 November, under particularly stringent security measures through the end of COP27.
- Former military contractor and Egyptian exile Mohamed Ali, who has called for mass protests in the past, has spearheaded growing calls for anti-government protests on 11 November seeking to exploit heightened international scrutiny during COP27. The demonstrations will violate the ban on protests without government approval, implemented in 2013. Calls for demonstrations have gained considerable traction on social media in recent weeks, amid mounting public frustrations over inflation-related socio-economic strains.
- In response to the calls, Egyptian authorities have arrested at least 120 individuals in the past two weeks, on charges of spreading misinformation, misusing social media platforms and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian-designated terrorist organisation. Measures taken by the security forces include establishing makeshift checkpoints on the streets of Cairo and other cities to conduct on-the-spot searches of phones and social media profiles for anti-government content. Security has also been reinforced at likely protest sites, such as Cairo’s Tahrir Square, with counter-protests also scheduled.
- The government has bolstered security measures in and around Sharm El Sheikh amid concerns protests will spread there during the hosting of more than 120 world leaders and 30,000 visitors at COP27 until 18 November. Tourists have been declined entry to Sharm El Sheikh at security checkpoints surrounding the town. Meanwhile, remaining summit tourism workers are required to hold a security card and are prohibited from leaving their residence outside of working hours or speaking freely with visitors.
- Climate and human rights activist groups have criticised the Egyptian government’s hosting of COP27 due to alleged widespread human rights abuses and the crackdown on civil society led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (see Sibylline Special Report – 14 October). In particular, activist groups have claimed that the government’s establishment of a specially-designated protest site at COP27 is aimed at restricting protest activity at the summit. This has heightened concerns among activists that protests in designated areas will largely comprise of state-affiliated organisations.
The government is almost certain to maintain and further intensify pre-emptive security measures ahead of 11 November. Measures are highly likely to include further arbitrary arrests and restrictions on freedom of movement via security checkpoints across likely protest sites nationwide, including in Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh. Searches of social media accounts and phones will increase the threat of arbitrary detention for personnel, particularly those working for media and non-governmental organisations, in the coming weeks. Repressive measures will reduce the likelihood of large-scale anti-government protests which would most likely take place in Cairo and other major cities. Meanwhile, pro-government entities and citizens are likely to lead counter-protests in these cities on 11 November, which the government is expected to use to obscure the extent of anti-government sentiment. This will increase the risk of clashes between anti- and pro-government protesters and will further heighten likely disruption to overland transport routes in major cities on 11 November
Several factors will reduce opportunities for activist engagement in authorised demonstrations at COP27. These include the absence of clarity over the location of government-designated protest sites at COP27 and the requirement that groups notify authorities 36 hours in advance of planned demonstrations, and provide the names and passport details of organisers. It is reasonably possible that this will drive activists to attempt to convene in non-designated locations, particularly outside the Sharm El Sheikh International Convention Centre (SHICC) and on surrounding roads. Security forces are likely to refrain from using harsh crowd dispersion methods to quell protests, particularly within Sharm El Sheikh during COP27. However, security forces will respond quickly to quell anti-government protests on 11 November or in the coming weeks. Personnel will face particularly elevated threats of detention, questioning or conviction if found participating in or merely in close proximity to an unauthorised protest. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Nov 22. Kazakhstan: Constitutional reforms provide opportunity for greater governance transparency, but presidency will retain significant influence over institutions. On 5 November, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev formally ratified a series of laws adopted following a constitutional referendum held in June 2022. The new legislation introduced a ban on close relatives of the President from holding senior political positions – a marked departure from the Nazarbayev family’s previous grip over state institutions. The president has also ostensibly strengthened the powers of the Prosecutor General to investigate human rights abuses, alongside re-establishing a Constitutional Court, which will start functioning on 1 January 2023. The President will retain the power to appoint the court’s chairman and four of its judges – underlining enduring supervision quality issues. The long-term impact of the laws on human rights and the rule of law remains to be seen. However, the laws represent a clear attempt by the Tokayev administration to present itself as reformist and distance itself from unpopular Nazarbayev-era policies ahead of the 20 November presidential election. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Nov 22. Bolivia: Anti-government activists in Santa Cruz schedule protests amid ongoing regional strike, sustaining the risk of domestic unrest. Today, 7 November, regional advocacy group, Comite Pro Santa Cruz, has scheduled several demonstrations in Santa Cruz department, amid an ongoing regional strike over a census delay which has held up financial aid. The strike which began on 22 October, has led to several protests and clashes with pro-government activists that have blockaded the roads entering areas engaging in the strike. There are reports of fuel and food scarcity in several areas of Santa Cruz, in part due to blockades set up by activists. Most of the country’s livestock and agricultural goods are produced in Santa Cruz. There is an elevated risk of domestic unrest, including clashes with police and counter-protesters at today’s demonstrations. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Nov 22. Haiti: Gang leader signals end to fuel terminal blockade, likely decreasing operational and health risks in the near term. On 6 November, the head of the G9 gang coalition in Port-au-Prince, Jimmy Cherizier (alias ‘Barbeque’) stated that fuel trucks could now approach the Varreux fuel terminal to restart distribution. The comments come after security forces began an offensive against the gang’s blockade on 3 November. The blockade was initially set up in mid-September, severely disrupting fuel distribution amid a Cholera outbreak in the Haitian capital. Throughout October, the US and Canada have suggested that a military mission may be deployed to the country to suppress gang activity and restore basic services. It is likely the government now controls access to the Varreux terminal, as such the risk of a foreign military mission is likely to decrease. Operational and health risks are also likely to trend downwards in the near term as fuel distribution is restored to the area. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Nov 22. Brazil: Pro-Bolsonaro protests trend downwards, however, risk of domestic unrest remains elevated until 1 January presidential inauguration. Roadblocks set up by supporters of President Bolsonaro have trended downwards, with only two major roadblocks (Vilhena, Altamira) being reported as of 7 November. Smaller manifestations have also taken place in several cities, demanding that the military prevent president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from taking office. According to social media posts, the protests are being organised by the so-called National Movement of Civil Resistance (MNRC), which has called for a nationwide strike on 7 November. Social media chatter has suggested that several medium-sized firms may support the strike allowing employees to protest. However, some firms included in the lists have distanced themselves from the strike action, indicating that the veracity of the information being disseminated is low. Despite the current lull in protests, the risk of domestic unrest is expected to remain elevated until the presidential inauguration on 1 January. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Nov 22. Japan PM vows to strengthen military at int’l naval review.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at an international fleet review Sunday that his country urgently needs to strengthen its military capabilities as security risks increase including threats from North Korea’s nuclear and missile advancement and Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Eighteen warships from 12 countries participated in the review, including the United States, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, while the U.S. and France also sent warplanes.
South Korea joined for the first time in seven years, in the latest sign of improvement in badly strained ties between Tokyo and Seoul over Japan’s wartime atrocities.
“The security environment in the East and South China seas, especially around Japan, is increasingly becoming more severe,” Kishida said, noting North Korea’s increased missile firings, including one that flew over Japan last month, and growing concern about the impact in Asia of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Avoiding disputes and seeking dialogue is important, Kishida said, but it is also necessary to be prepared for provocations and threats to peace and stability. He repeated his pledge to significantly reinforce Japan’s military capability within five years.
Kishida said Japan urgently needs to build more warships, strengthen anti-missile capability and improve working conditions for troops.
“We have no time to waste,” Kishida said after his review aboard the JS Izumo, where naval officers from the participating countries gathered to review a demonstration of the frigates, submarines, supply ships and warplanes in Sagami Bay southwest of Tokyo.
The 248-meter- (813-foot) long Izumo has been retrofitted so that it can carry F-35Bs, stealth fighters capable of short take-offs and vertical landings, as Japan increasingly works side-by-side with the U.S. military.
Kishida said Japan will further strengthen the deterrence and response capability of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Later Sunday, Kishida and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel visited the USS Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Navy’s only aircraft career based outside the U.S. mainland, off the U.S. naval base of Yokosuka.
Emanuel stressed the importance of cooperation among U.S. allies. “Every time we do things in either a bilateral capacity, trilateral capacity of any other type of exercises that also brings in others, that puts China on their back heels because they realize that’s the one thing they do not have is the one thing America has in abundance and we work at it extensively.”
The U.S. military, which had just finished a joint exercise with South Korea that prompted missile barrages and other warnings from North Korea, is set to hold major drills with Japan later this month in southwestern Japan. Australia, Canada and Britain will join part of the drills, while France, India, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea are expected to take part as observers.
Japan has steadily stepped up its international defense role and military spending over the past decade, and plans to double its military budget in the next five to 10 years to about 2% of its GDP, citing a NATO standard, amid threats from North Korea and China’s growing assertiveness.
China has reinforced its claims to virtually the entire South China Sea by constructing artificial islands equipped with military installations and airfields. Beijing also claims a string of islands that are controlled by Japan in the East China Sea, and has stepped up military harassment of self-ruled Taiwan, which it says is part of China to be annexed by force if necessary.
Kishida’s government is currently working on a revision to its national security strategy and mid- to long-term defense policies, and is considering allowing the use of preemptive strikes in a major shift to Japan’s self-defense-only postwar principle. Critics say preemptive strikes could violate Japan’s pacifist constitution.
Apparently addressing concerns from Asian neighbors, Kishida said Japan will stick to its postwar pledge as a “pacifist nation” and continue to explain its security policy to gain understanding while asking other countries to do the same.
Many of its neighbors, including South Korea, were victims of Japanese aggression in the first half of the 1900s, and an attempt by Japan to increase its military role and spending could be a sensitive issue.
Sunday’s international fleet review marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of Japan’s postwar navy, called the Maritime Self-Defense Force, seven years after Japan was demilitarized after its World War II defeat. The naval ships and warplanes were to participate in joint exercises later on Sunday and Monday.
It was the first time Japan hosted an international fleet review in 20 years. China did not take part but was expected to participate in the two-day Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Yokohama starting Monday with officers from about 30 countries discussing maritime security. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/AP)
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